While SI’s Jon Heyman‘s been tweeting that Mariano Rivera’s teammates have contradicted Joe Girardi’s claims his talismanic reliever didn’t mind being ordered to intentionally walk Evan Longoria during Saturday’s 9th inning capitulation to Tampa, the Daily News’ John Harper says of Mo’s outing, “you couldn’t simply dismiss (it)  as the type of rare misstep Rivera encounters most every season.”

Four of the five batters Rivera faced, two lefthanders and two righthanders, put good swings on his cutter and squared it up in ways no Yankee fan is accustomed to seeing.

One major league scout who was at the game said, “I can’t remember seeing so many comfortable swings” against Rivera.

The result was three line shots, one for a triple, two for singles, and the fourth ball hit well enough that Nick Swisher caught it on the run at the wall in right. And in Ben Zobrist, Joe Dillon, Matt Joyce and B.J. Upton, this wasn’t exactly the heart of the Rays’ lineup.

Perhaps most revealing, with a runner on third with two outs and the Rays already leading 6-5, Joe Girardi wouldn’t let Rivera pitch to Longoria, who was pinch-hitting after being out of the lineup for a third straight game because of a strained hamstring.

In any case, you could understand Girardi preferring to take his chances with Upton, who is hitting only .220 this season, especially considering Longoria launched that bomb of a home run off Rivera here a month ago

Still, since when does any of that matter with the man they call Mo on the mound? Any way you dissect the move, the intentional walk was a concession that Rivera isn’t quite as dominating as he once was.

It was the way they put it in play that made you notice. Maybe it was just a bad day. But what if this is the year the ninth inning finally becomes scary in the Bronx?

Elsewhere, Harper fairly points out that Rivera is 12 for 13 in saves chances.  What if this is the year one isolated example is used to shovel dirt on a Hall Of Famer’s career?