The Yankees had their winning formula going. Get a lead going into the eighth inning, bring in Hughes and then close it out with Rivera. Hughes did his part in the eighth and Rivera had two outs in the ninth. That's usually a done deal. Didn't turn out that way. In case you missed it, here is the video.
Rivera has 40 saves this season and had only blown one of them before last night. He's been nearly automatic all season. But you get the feeling watching Ichiro that he can hit a homer any time he wants to. Much like Wade Boggs with the Red Sox, Ichiro would rather get his hits then try for homers. But it seems that if he wanted to, he could hit thirty without much effort. But the hit his batting average would take is something Ichiro can't stomach, so it doesn't happen.
But he is just the kind of hitter that would take Rivera deep. Rivera lives on the inside part of the plate. Ichiro does not have one kind of approach like most hitters. He varies his approach to a pitch depending on where it is. Against slow stuff, he is just as likely to run up the batter's box to hit it as he is to stay deep and on his back foot to explode into the ball. If you watch the video, Ichiro stepped a little into the bucket and got his hips out of the way quickly to turn on Rivera's inside cutter.
In hindsight, that ability that Ichiro has to alter his approach should have led Rivera to work around him. First base was open. Rivera should have at least stayed outside. It was a poor choice and the cutter got too much of the inside part of the plate and Rivera paid for it.
It's shocking and it's not. Not with Ichiro and the kind of hitter that he is.