Pettitte savors moment in final Yankee Stadium start
Although disappointed with loss, lefty calls ovation from fans in eighth 'amazing'
NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte normally sprints off the Yankee Stadium mound. He's usually mad about getting pulled from the game, he said, and he's just thinking about the mistake he made that caused manager Joe Girardi to come out and get him.
But on Sunday, the Yankees' veteran left-hander slowed down enough to take in the moment. After all, it was likely the last time Pettitte will make that familiar trip from the mound to the dugout in his Yankee Stadium career.
Pettitte tipped his cap to the sellout crowd, embraced Derek Jeter on the top step of the first-base dugout and, a few moments later, re-emerged for his final Yankee Stadium curtain call amidst a standing ovation from the 49,197 fans in attendance.
"It was great, it really was. It was amazing," Pettitte said. "It was a great moment for me and I really enjoyed it. I was glad I got the opportunity to do that and the fans were awesome, just like they've always been to me."
Unfortunately, the game didn't have the storybook ending the Yankees were hoping for. Pettitte -- who announced on Friday that he would retire at the end of the year -- turned in one of his best performances of the season against the Giants, giving up two runs on just two hits and one walk over seven innings in his final regular-season start at Yankee Stadium, but it wasn't enough for New York to avoid a 2-1 loss to San Francisco.
That loss came on the same day the Yankees honored legendary closer Mariano Rivera, Pettitte's longtime teammate. Pettitte went through his pregame warmups while Metallica played "Enter Sandman" and was in the weight room when Rivera gave a speech during a pregame ceremony honoring him.
"It was like extra special. It was like extra crispy. The way Andy pitched today, it's too bad that he didn't win," Rivera said. "He was outstanding. I wish he could have won that game, but it didn't happen. I think that he did the right thing, announcing his retirement and pitching in front of his fans. That's the right way to do it."
Pettitte didn't throw his first pitch until 1:55 p.m. ET on Sunday, 50 minutes after the game's scheduled start time.
"I thought Andy handled it tremendously," Girardi said. "I thought Andy came out and threw as good a game as he's thrown during the course of the season. It didn't seem to bother him. I've talked about how Andy seems to get locked in. I don't think it bothered him."
Despite the delay, it looked like Pettitte was going to do something special against the Giants. The left-hander was perfect through the first 4 2/3 innings before walking Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, and he didn't allow a hit until shortstop Ehire Adrianza connected on his first career home run with one out in the fifth inning.
"I felt really good, I felt like my command was really good. I knew I had had it," Pettitte said. "I hate to even say it, at this point, at this stage -- I don't know if my body will allow me to pitch nine innings. It was good to dream and think about it, but it helped me mentally, just saying, 'Keep making your pitches, go as hard as you can for as long as you can.' I definitely knew I had a no-hitter and felt really good and couldn't believe I had made the two mistakes I did because I really felt so locked in."
Pettitte only made two mistakes in the game, but they were enough to cost him -- and the Yankees -- a win. The first was Adrianza's home run in the fifth inning, and the second came with no outs in the eighth inning, when Sandoval took a 1-0 slider from Pettitte and lined a leadoff double to left field.
David Robertson came on in relief of Pettitte and, two batters and five pitches later, allowed Sandoval to score the go-ahead run, saddling Pettitte with the loss in his final start in the Bronx.
Rivera entered the game after Robertson and got the Yankees through the eighth and ninth innings without any incident -- Pettitte told Rivera, "Way to go, old man," after he completed the eighth -- but the Yankees had two runners thrown out at home in the eighth inning and couldn't put together a rally in the ninth.
"It's hard to believe that we're sitting here, and that we lost another game," Pettitte said.
"I really thought that we'd have the magic to pull this one off and was hoping that we'd be able to win this game because we knew how big of a game it was."
The day started as a special one for the Yankees and their fans, but the loss clearly dampened some of those emotions, as well as the team's postseason hopes. Pettitte said he enjoyed his moment with the fans when he jogged off the Yankee Stadium mound, but it wasn't all smiles as him and his family addressed the media after the Yankees' loss to the Giants.
"I take every loss hard. I do, because I know every one of them counts," Pettitte said. "I knew this was going to be my last year coming into the season, so I've taken it so serious, like I always have. I've tried to lay it out there all year long. I'm just glad that I did it the way I did it, but it's extremely difficult to swallow, especially when you're the one out there, and you're the one throwing the ball, and you're in control of what's going on, in terms of giving up the runs. I made a terrible mistake there in the eighth inning, to give up that leadoff double, and that ended up being the ballgame."
Pettitte will finish his career in the Bronx 116-55 with a 3.76 ERA between the old and new Yankee Stadiums. He will make the final start of his career next weekend in Houston against the Astros.
"I'm so glad that I had said that this was going to be it for me, to be able to tip my cap to the fans," Pettitte said. "But it's just extremely, extremely disappointing to know that we may not be [in the playoffs]. We don't control -- it's out of our hands, and that's the most frustrating part. We haven't played that well. We just haven't played that well over the last few weeks, and that's really disappointing."
Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.