Freiman: 'This is what you want to look like after a game'
Nate Freiman celebrates as Mariano Rivera walks off the mound in Oakland Thursday. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
OAKLAND -- Nate Frieman grew up a huge Boston Red Sox fan, one who never booed New York Yankees legendary closer Mariano Rivera.
In fact, Freiman is hoping to somehow, some way, get Rivera's autograph…on the ball he blooped into left field to give the A's a walk-off 3-2 victory in 18 innings Thursday. Given Rivera's reputation, it should not be a problem, not even as the ball represents a failed job for Rivera.
Freiman has the bat, too, a favorite of his that he's used for weeks. One that's been retired now, having been broken just above the handle. Split, but not separated, as it sat in his locker.
"He sawed me off pretty good," Freiman said. "If it's going to break, it's a pretty good way to go.
"It's retired now."
As Rivera will be at the end of this season, following a Hall of Fame career that will have spanned 19 seasons.
Put it this way: Rivera broke Freiman's bat, but Freiman broke Rivera's heart.
"A little broken-bat blooper over the third baseman," Rivera lamented. "And the other one, the same place. You can't do anything about it."
The "other one" Rivera was talking about was Seth Smith's broken bat flare to left two batters before Freiman stepped to the plate. Rivera had come in with a runner at first in John Jaso, and Smith's hit put runners at the corners with one out.
Rivera then intentionally walked Jed Lowrie to load the bases and set up the potential inning-ending double play.
Then a Red Sox fan who grew up in Wellesley, Mass., got in the way.
"I saw that situation develop," Freiman said. "I saw that coming. I figured they're walking Jed to get to me."
So Freiman, who entered the game in the 16th inning at first base as Brandon Moss moved to third to replace Josh Donaldson when his right hamstring cramped, had a specific approach.
"I knew I had to elevate the ball," Freiman said. "I'm not going to beat out a double-play (grounder)."
And on Rivera's second offering to him, a 92-mph cutter, Freiman swung. The bat cracked and the ball floated into shallow left. While he had his first career walk-off hit, it was the A's fifth walk-off win of the season.
"This is the kind of thing that brings a team together," Freiman said.
"We'll play 28, 38 innings if we get the 'W.' We're pumped up we just did that. We swept the Yankees."
Just don't remind the gentlemanly Rivera of that when you ask for his signature on the ball with which you beat him.