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Mariano Rivera--still the best when game is on the line.

ANDY PETTITTE SHOOK HIS HEAD AFTER THE YANKEES' 5-4 VICTORY OVER THE BLUE JAYS last August, marveling at Mariano Rivera.

The two have been teammates for much of their careers, rising through the minor leagues at about the same time and making their major league debuts in 1995.

Yet, a three-year absence while with the Houston Astros may have made Pettitte appreciate Rivera even more. So when Rivera struck out the Jays' Alex Rios, Vernon Wells and Frank Thomas in the ninth inning for his 18th save, Pettitte was not surprised.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Impressed, yes. Surprised, no.

"It's awesome," Petfitte said. "Mo has saved so many of my games. He makes it look so easy, doing what's so hard for me to do. He's amazing. He's the best there is. And probably the best ever."

A difficult April for Rivera had some wondering whether he was finally starting to show his age (37). Since then, however, Rivera was dominant. His ERA did not top 2.00 in any month since, and he walked only two batters while striking out 42 through August 7.

"I'm pitching more," Rivera said. "Sometimes when you pitch more, that helps you pitch better."

In front of Rivera, Luis Vizcaino has also been markedly better.

"They have been huge for us," manager Joe Torre said.

Torre's biggest concern about the two may be how to avoid overusing Vizcaino. He pitched in an A. L.-high 59 games through the first week in August.

Vizcaino says the amount of work is no problem. He has proven to be durable in his career, and his number of appearances since 2002 rank third in the major leagues.

"I feel super-well, and content, because I am pitching well and the team is winning," Vizcaino said.

Vizcaino loves having the opportunity to pitch in front of Rivera.

"Mariano, for me, is the best pitcher ever," he said.--Kat O'Brien, Newsday

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Title Annotation:Baseball Notes
Author:O'Brien, Kat
Publication:Baseball Digest
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2007
Words:319
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