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Rivera sets saves record with No. 602

Mariano Rivera stood by himself, in the center of the diamond at Yankee Stadium.

For once, the great closer wasn't sure what to do next.

So he smiled, blew a kiss to the crowd, and then doffed his cap as cheers washed over him following the record 602nd save of his career.

"Oh, my God, 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."

Rivera pitched a perfect ninth inning, striking out Chris Parmelee on what appeared to be his signature cut fastball to end the New York Yankees' 6-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday.

Fans from the smallest crowd in the Stadium's three-year history stood and shouted from Rivera's first pitch to his last as he retired Trevor Plouffe, Michael Cuddyer and Parmelee in order and broke Trevor Hoffman's mark.

They even roared in the bottom of the eighth when Nick Swisher grounded into an inning-ending double play -- and drew a loud cheer from fans who wanted to see history made at the ballpark for the second time this summer. In July, Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit at home.

"These guys are into it," Rivera thought to himself.

It's a 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."

So good for so long, Rivera has built a Hall of Fame-caliber career and been a pillar of five World Series championship teams. The only person who might not acknowledge Rivera isn't the best closer of all time is Rivera himself.

"You know me, I'm not like that," Rivera said. "I like to be under the radar, do my job."

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.

On Monday, the crowd hollered as Rivera came in to his customary of "Enter Sandman." The fans grew louder with every strike, every out as Rivera closed in. He 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, and then gave the skinny Panamanian a big hug.

Rivera stayed and accepted congratulations -- Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and finally Jeter came over to him before the bullpen and bench got there while the Twins watched from their dugout.

"I think it shows what he means to baseball, what he's done," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I also think it shows the class of the Minnesota Twins."

Eventually, the Twins went back to their lockers and the Yankees did, too. That meant Rivera was left on the mound. He tried to sneak off the field with them, but longtime teammate Jorge Posada pushed him, laughing, onto the mound, where fans cheered him once again.

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.

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