“He’s not saving anything for 2014,” Girardi said about Rivera, who plans to retire after this season. “He told us that he could give us two, so it wasn’t really too harsh.”
Baseball’s career saves leader got through his first inning with little difficulty, but Middlebrooks led off the ninth and lofted a high fly to right field. Suzuki initially broke in on the ball, then scurried back as the wind caught hold of it and dropped it a few rows deep beyond the famous short porch at Yankee Stadium.
“I thought he was going to catch it on the track,” Middlebrooks said. “I didn’t crush it. I didn’t think it was a homer.”
But it was — the fourth for Middlebrooks in five days. Rivera, hands on his hips, stood on the mound with a puzzled, exasperated look on his face and appeared to mouth the word “unbelievable.”
It was Rivera’s seventh blown save in 48 chances this year, and second of the series.
“If it wasn’t for the wind, it would have been a popup,” Suzuki said through a translator.
Rivera retired the next three batters, though, and the Yankees regrouped to finish a 6-4 homestand that keeps them in the wild-card hunt.
Kuroda tossed six gritty innings and left in line for his first win since Aug. 12. Shawn Kelley retired Dustin Pedroia on a grounder with two runners in scoring position to end the seventh.
It was Kelley’s first outing since he was roughed up by Baltimore last Sunday. The right-hander had been sidelined because of inflammation in his triceps.
After allowing 34 runs in the first three games of the series, the Yankees appeared to be in trouble again when Kuroda gave up consecutive doubles to David Ortiz and Mike Carp to start the second. But the right-hander fought through a 38-pitch inning and kept the score 1-0 by retiring Daniel Nava on a bases-loaded grounder following a pair of walks.