And then the White Sox went out and beat the future Hall of Famer.
They didn't exactly beat Rivera, as much as extended the game with a run in the ninth. The 6-5 victory actually came in the 12th, when the White Sox completed their second two-out, nobody-on rally and erased a 5-4 Yankees' lead.
For the first time since June 8-10, the White Sox have won three straight. The South Siders completed their first series sweep since May 24-26 against the Marlins.
With that Marlins sweep, the White Sox reached .500. Wednesday's win simply raised their record to 43-69 and kept them 6 1/2 games out of fourth place behind the Twins, let alone 24 games behind the Tigers in the American League Central. Regardless of the record, these were three memorable games during a rather forgettable season.
"We fought to the end. We always do," White Sox captain Paul Konerko said. "But tonight we can at least smile after the end."
"You probably don't want to draw it up like that too many times, but we were able to do it, we were fortunate," White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham said. "It was an awesome win."
Robinson Cano put the Yankees (57-56) ahead with a 431-foot homer off of Dylan Axelrod (4-8) in the top of the 12th, and Adam Warren (1-2), who fanned four over 1 2/3 innings, retired the first two hitters in the bottom half rather easily. Tyler Flowers then hit a 1-2 hopper back to the mound that Warren should have fielded for the final out, but he mistimed his stretch and Flowers reached with an infield single.
"I made that play I feel like 99 out of 100 times," said Warren of Flowers' grounder. "Somehow it just hit off my glove the wrong way and didn't go in there."
Alexei Ramirez followed with a single to center to put runners on the corners, and Alejandro De Aza ripped a 1-0 pitch into right-center for a two-run, game-winning triple. That De Aza drive improved the White Sox to 2-56 when trailing after eight innings.
"It's a good feeling to have a big hit and help the team to win the ballgame," De Aza said. "It's a much better feeling because it's no fun losing. The fun is when you win."
If that 12th-inning excitement served as the main attraction, then producing Rivera's third blown save ever at U.S. Cellular Field became the opening act. His final appearance in Chicago began with routine flyouts from Alex Rios and Konerko, before Beckham doubled to right-center for his first career hit against the legend.
Adam Dunn pinch-hit and on an 0-2 cutter, singled past third baseman Alex Rodriguez to bring home Beckham with the game-tying run. Rivera fanned Casper Wells to end the threat, arguing the point that Rivera could have pitched around Dunn, but Dunn entered that at-bat 0-for-4 with four strikeouts lifetime against Rivera.
Sometimes the impossible becomes possible, even for the 2013 White Sox.
"Dunn, he had a good at-bat," Rivera said. "Even though it was two strikes, he threw the bat at the ball and found a hole."
"Everybody is aware of who he is and what he means and you realize you're not in a very good spot at that point," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of getting to Rivera. "But for them to go up there and have tough at-bats, Dunner coming off the bench and getting one to left to tie it up, it's a big boost for us."
Beckham homered with one out in the fifth off of CC Sabathia for the White Sox first run. Alfonso Soriano helped build up a 4-0 Yankees advantage with a two-run homer in the first off of Hector Santiago.
Santiago yielded four runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking two. The Yankees could have given Rivera a bigger margin to work with but missed on countless opportunities to widen the lead, stranding two in the third, the bases loaded in the sixth and putting the first two runners on base in both the seventh and eighth but not scoring in either frame.
Six relievers held the Yankees in check, including two scoreless innings from closer Addison Reed. The White Sox also finished the comeback without pitching coach Don Cooper, who was ejected by home-plate umpire Greg Gibson in the bottom of the eighth for arguing a called third strike against Flowers on a 3-2 offering from David Robertson.
These three games held up as a series full of excitement for the White Sox, punctuated by Wednesday's amazing finish. They paid their respects to Rivera, until the game was on the line.
"You don't expect to tie it up off the greatest closer ever," Konerko said. "But you know, I guess, with our team, that makes perfect sense this year."
"Right there before the [De Aza] hit, everybody was thinking, 'Here we go again.' We claw our way back into a game just to lose it in the 12th," Beckham said. "Then De Aza came up big. We're all happy right now."