Mariano Rivera has shut down opponents in the ninth inning -- or later -- 644 times in the past 19 years. But on July 4, 1995, he didn't pitch in the ninth.
Instead, Rivera shut down his opponent over the first eight innings.
In what was easily the best of his 10 career Major League starts, Rivera stymied White Sox batters over eight scoreless innings, allowing just two hits while striking out what would prove to be a career-high 11 in the Yankees' 4-1 victory at Comiskey Park.
Rivera did walk four batters, but he only allowed one of them to reach second base. The only two hits he yielded were singles, both off the bat of first baseman Frank Thomas, a potential Hall of Famer.
"The scouting report we had said that he throws about 85 or 86 [mph]," White Sox outfielder Dave Martinez told The New York Times after the game. "He was throwing a lot harder than that."
It was the first appearance of Rivera's second stint with the Yanks that season, his first in the big leagues. Prior to that, the right-hander had thrown 20 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings for Triple-A Columbus.
Rivera would go on to start five more games that season, but he never came close to matching his outing on Independence Day in Chicago. It was the only one of his 10 starts in which he didn't allow a run, and it remains the only time he threw more than six innings or struck out double-digit batters in a single game.
Rivera finished his rookie season 5-3 with a 5.51 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 67 innings. He walked 30, an eyebrow-raising number in hindsight.
"I know I can pitch up here," Rivera told the Times. "No doubt about it. They have to hit me. They didn't."