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Major milestone falls in New York

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Major milestone falls in New York

From Comcast SportsNet Tuesday, September 20, 2011
NEW YORK (AP) -- Now that save No. 602 is behind him, Mariano Rivera is happy to step back out of the spotlight and work on another big number: six. Despite five World Series championships in 17 seasons with the New York Yankees, Rivera has never come to enjoy individual attention. "You know me, I'm not like that," Rivera said. "I like to be under the radar, do my job." There was no chance of that Monday afternoon, when the smallest crowd in the three-year history of Yankee Stadium nearly drowned out Metallica's "Enter Sandman" as Rivera came in for the ninth inning. They hollered with every pitch -- and there weren't many of them. Rivera retired the Twins' Trevor Plouffe, Michael Cuddyer and Chris Parmelee to end the Yankees' 6-4 win over Minnesota and break Trevor Hoffman's mark. Rivera even broke a bat for good measure -- sawing off Parmelee and sending the rookie back to the dugout for another piece of wood. Parmelee lasted only one more pitch. Plate umpire John Hirschbeck rung him up, and catcher Russell Martin came out to the mound, gently placed the ball in Rivera's glove, then gave him a big hug. Rivera stayed and accepted congratulations -- Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and finally Derek Jeter came over before the bullpen and bench got there. The Twins watched from their dugout. Rivera tried to walk off the field with the rest of the Yankees, but longtime teammate Jorge Posada pushed him, laughing, onto the mound, where fans cheered him once again. Never comfortable in the spotlight, Rivera didn't know quite what to do. He proved equal to the moment yet again. Rivera smiled, blew a kiss to the crowd, and then doffed his cap as cheers washed over him. "For the first time in my career, I'm on the mound alone," Rivera said. "It was priceless. I didn't know it could be like that." It was the second big moment at home for the Yankees and their fans. In July, Jeter got his 3,000th hit in the Bronx. Rivera's may have been the more remarkable achievement, considering the slender right-hander throws mostly one pitch. Opposing hitters have seen it for years, but still haven't figured it out. "It's amazing," Cuddyer said. "You've got a 99 percent chance of knowing what's coming, and he still is able to go out there and dominate." He nearly did it outside the country. The 41-year-old Rivera tied Hoffman with save No. 601 on Saturday in Toronto. The AL East leaders lost Sunday, putting Rivera in line to get the milestone in the Yankees' last homestand of the season. And who would've thought it, at least back in 1995 when Rivera started out. He began his career as a starter, lasting only 3 1-3 innings and losing 10-0 to the Angels in his debut, before becoming a star in the bullpen. Rivera's 602 saves have come in 674 chances. Hoffman got his 601 in 677 tries. Paid attendance was 40,045, less than the capacity crowd and attendant hullabaloo surrounding Jeter's historic hit. STATS LLC said Monday's makeup game drew the fewest fans since the new Yankee Stadium opened. The Twins lost their ninth straight, tying a run in May as their worst of the season. The Yankees have been struggling, too -- this was just their fifth win in 12 games. Rivera has finished their last three victories, though. He earned his 600th save in Seattle on Sept. 13. Now that the milestone is behind him, Rivera can focus on getting ready for his 16th October in 17 seasons -- the time of year his reputation was made. Those 602 saves don't count any of the 42 he locked down in the playoffs -- in only 47 chances. The Yankees lead Boston by 5 games in the AL East with 10 to play. A.J. Burnett didn't make it past the fifth inning, but Cory Wade (6-1), Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano and David Robertson kept the Twins at bay until Rivera came on in the ninth, and Curtis Granderson hit his 41st homer of the year. Granderson's homer off Scott Diamond (1-5) came in the first after Jeter reached on an infield single, and Robinson Cano hit an RBI triple in the third followed by Nick Swisher's single to make it 5-0. Rodriguez hit a two-out RBI single in the sixth -- right around the time Rivera was realizing he could be called on in the ninth. As he has been since he got his first save on May 17, 1996, Mo was ready in the ninth. Eventually, he will no longer be the Yankees' closer. Rivera said he doesn't know yet when he'll call it a career, saying "it's a decision that we have to make as a family." "I don't know if I can pitch three more years, you guys. It's hard out there. I don't have any hair anymore." Just five pitchers who were primarily relievers are in the Hall of Fame: Hoyt Wilhelm (1985), Rollie Fingers (1992), Dennis Eckersley (2004), Bruce Sutter (2006) and Goose Gossage (2008). Rivera, who turns 42 in November, is set to be the sixth once he does retire. "Baseball will remain without me," Rivera said. "There will be other good guys closing games -- and I will be watching."

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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USA TODAY

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: