TORONTO — Clay Holmes’ dominance has surpassed Mariano Rivera’s level.
The Yankees closer made his 29th straight scoreless appearance Saturday in a 4-0 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, breaking Rivera’s franchise record for a relief pitcher that had stood since 1999.
“Just for the fact that it’s Mariano Rivera makes it pretty special,” Holmes said after throwing 1 ¹/₃ perfect innings to finish the game. “He’s a guy I grew up watching. What he’s done in this game, it’s pretty amazing. So just to be in the same category of just one little thing he’s done, it’s pretty cool. The defense has been great. It’s been fun to pitch for this team and catchers. It’s been a fun little run. I think all of us hope to keep it up.”
Holmes has now thrown 31 ¹/₃ straight innings without allowing a run — Rivera’s 28-game scoreless streak spanned 30 ²/₃ innings. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last Yankees pitcher before Holmes to record a single-season scoreless streak of at least 31 innings was Jack Aker in 1969, with 33 innings across 18 games.
The only game in which Holmes has allowed a run this season came in his first outing on April 8, when the Red Sox got to him for one run on three hits in two-thirds of an inning.
Since then, Holmes has been nearly untouchable, allowing just 15 hits and three walks while striking out 33 on the way to breaking the franchise record.
“It’s been awesome,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We acknowledged that today in the postgame. He got the belt today because of that. You think about this storied franchise and you bring up the name Mariano, what more can you say? He’s been absolutely dominant and was again today.”
Holmes’ slider has improved this season, but his bread and butter is his sinker, which has confounded hitters with its unpredictable movement.
“His sinker, man, it’s literally a freaking bowling ball,” Aaron Hicks said. “The thing just shoots out of his hand and he’s extremely accurate with it.”
Holmes can dominate with his sinker the way Rivera did with his cutter, and now it has allowed him to move past the Hall of Famer — who congratulated Holmes on social media when he tied the record. Holmes has also done so while moving into the closer’s role in place of the injured Aroldis Chapman and he has not flinched in the process.
“You hear something every now and then [about the record]little things, but it doesn’t really change [anything],” said Holmes. “When I get on the mound, it’s the same focus. It’s definitely special, just for who Mo was. But gotta keep focusing on what I’m doing and try to keep rolling.”