Clay Holmes equals Mariano Rivera’s record

Inna Zeyger
Thursday August 10, 2023

Table of Contents

The performance of Clay Holmes over the past 34 games has been remarkably dominant, boasting an impressive 0.80 ERA along with 12 saves and 41 strikeouts. This remarkable achievement places him in the esteemed company of Yankees icon Mariano Rivera, making them the only two pitchers in team history to achieve such impressive stats over a 34-game span.

Mariano Rivera managed this achievement on two occasions during his time with the Yankees, achieving it in both 2005 and 2008. Clay Holmes, on the other hand, became part of the Yankees’ roster in 2021 after being traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a deal involving infielders Diego Castillo and Hoy Park. Since his arrival in the Yankees’ fold, Clay Holmes has consistently stood out as one of the premier relievers in the league, a distinction highlighted by his selection to the All-Star Game last season.

In the previous season, Clay Holmes played a significant role in fortifying the Yankees’ bullpen, delivering a 2.54 ERA in 62 appearances and showcasing an impressive 65-to-20 ratio of strikeouts to walks. However, his performance this year has exceeded even those standards. At 30 years old, he is arguably experiencing the most remarkable season of his career thus far. Across 46 outings, he boasts a 2.06 ERA, along with securing 16 saves and notching an impressive 53 strikeouts.

While the Yankees’ season hasn’t unfolded according to their initial aspirations, Clay Holmes has emerged as a dependable asset in the latter part of their bullpen. The Yankees find themselves trailing by four and a half games in the American League Wild Card race, and if the team aims to close the gap, Clay Holmes’ continued impressive performance would undoubtedly offer valuable support.

Mariano Rivera on Clay Holmes

Hours before the Yankees secured a thrilling 9-8 victory against the Rays at Yankee Stadium on May 13, 2023, Mariano Rivera stood on the field donning a black Yankees cap, a white polo shirt, and black jeans. Despite his ceremonial first-pitch duties, Mariano Rivera’s appearance suggested he could step in for a few outs if needed. Nearly a decade has passed since Mariano Rivera, now 53, last graced the mound, yet the memories of his illustrious career remain vivid — the highs and lows alike. In Clay Holmes, the Yankees’ reliever, Mariano Rivera discerns echoes of his own journey.

Mariano Rivera conveyed to The Athletic that when Clay Holmes faltered in a game, it had a noticeable impact on the team’s morale. Drawing from his own experiences, Mariano Rivera likened it to instances when he himself struggled in games, prompting reactions of concern and doubt. He emphasized that despite such moments, his overall performance remained steadfast and reliable throughout the year. Mariano Rivera believes that Clay Holmes possesses the potential to follow a similar trajectory of consistency and even surpass it. Rivera expressed confidence in Clay Holmes’ capabilities and affirmed his belief that Holmes has both the talent and the necessary attributes to progress and succeed.

Clay Holmes of the New York Yankees
Claudette/ Twitter

Clay Holmes played a pivotal role in Saturday’s triumphant 9-8 victory, effectively covering 1 2/3 innings to bridge the gap to Wandy Peralta, who secured the save. During his stint, Clay Holmes managed to strike out three opposing batters while conceding three hits. Notably, he faced a tense moment in the seventh inning when Randy Arozarena’s broken-bat single up the middle brought in two runs, narrowing the Yankees’ lead. Despite the pressure, Holmes skillfully navigated through the situation and proceeded to deliver a scoreless eighth inning. This impressive performance came on the heels of his prior outing, where he had thrown 15 pitches over two-thirds of an inning to contribute to a previous win.

Manager Aaron Boone praised Clay Holmes’ performance, expressing his approval of the way Clay Holmes handled the extended workload on the heels of his previous night’s appearance. Boone acknowledged the team’s limited bullpen options and highlighted Clay Holmes’ effective pitching, even in the situation involving Arozarena’s hit. Despite the unfortunate outcome with Arozarena’s hit, Boone noted Holmes’ successful strikeout of Josh Lowe and his overall strong performance throughout the eighth inning. In summary, Boone commended Clay Holmes’ resilience and skill on the mound during the game.

In 15 and one-third innings, Clay Holmes has accumulated 21 strikeouts while maintaining a 1.50 WHIP.

Following an impressive first half of the 2022 season that earned Clay Holmes his debut at the American League All-Star Game, his performance has shown inconsistency. The Yankees have experienced a shift in strategy, leaning towards a closer-by-committee approach as they search for a reliable option in this role. Clay Holmes, who had an exceptional 1.31 ERA in 41 games during the first half of the previous season, has encountered a decline with a 4.75 ERA since then. In the current season, he has maintained a 4.11 ERA across 17 games. Notably, Clay Holmes faced a significant setback when entrusted with protecting a 2-0 lead against the Guardians on May 1, during which he struggled and contributed to a disappointing 3-2 loss. However, in his most recent six appearances, he has allowed only a single earned run. Unfortunately, Clay Holmes was not available for comment postgame as he was not present in the Yankees’ clubhouse during media access.

Clay Holmes’ primary focus lies in maintaining consistency with his high-90s sinker. According to fellow reliever Mike King, this pitch stands out as one of the best in baseball when considering its metrics, velocity, and Holmes’ command, particularly when his confidence is high. However, Holmes’ success with the sinker hinges on his intuitive sense of it. The more he utilizes it, the more he establishes comfort, causing the pitch to descend like an anchor beyond the strike zone. This compels hitters to either swing over it or make feeble contact, often resulting in ground balls. Regrettably, should Holmes lose his grasp on the pitch’s feel, it can lose its effectiveness, resembling an uninspired fastball and presenting an enticing opportunity for opposing batters.

Mariano Rivera is well-versed in the art of wielding baseball’s premier pitch. Throughout his illustrious 19-year career, he bewildered opposing batters with his signature cut fastball, which he predominantly relied on to accumulate a remarkable 652 saves, a record in Major League Baseball history. Notably, Mariano Rivera achieved the unprecedented feat of receiving a unanimous 100 percent of votes on his Hall of Fame ballot. For many, his cut fastball is regarded as one of the most exceptional pitches ever seen in the realm of MLB.

Mariano Rivera is absolutely amazed by the effectiveness of Clay Holmes’ sinker.


Mariano Rivera was thoroughly impressed by Clay Holmes’ sinker, noting that even at around 95 percent, the pitch possesses remarkable movement and is incredibly challenging for hitters to make contact with.

Last year, Mariano Rivera had a conversation with Clay Holmes, and his advice to the fellow pitcher was…

“He has a tremendous tool, tremendous ability,” Mariano Rivera said. “Sometimes, you’re going to blow games — a game here, a game there. That’s normal. Completely normal. All you need to do is just make sure that you trust your ability. I have talked to him before. I just told him that. Just make sure that you trust your abilities.”

He understands the challenge Clay Holmes faces in controlling such an impressive pitch.

Mariano Rivera mentioned that his cutter was consistently effective, being a crucial part of his repertoire. He acknowledged the initial challenge of mastering the pitch’s control, as it wasn’t initially predictable. However, once he gained command over it, the results improved significantly. Mariano Rivera also shared that when he faced difficulties, it was often due to the pitch lacking its usual movement.

He simply wishes for Clay Holmes to remain steadfast and maintain confidence in his abilities.

Mariano Rivera noted that every pitch experiences fluctuations like that, alluding to Clay Holmes’ variability with his sinker. He acknowledged that every pitcher encounters such phases and emphasized the significance of having faith in one’s skills. Mariano Rivera expressed confidence that once Clay Holmes embraces his capabilities, he will naturally perform as needed, and any other concerns become inconsequential due to the understanding that such fluctuations are a natural part of the game.

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