No win for Yankees in Andy Pettitte's final home start
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Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, fans, just about everyone associated with the Yankees had the perfect scenario in mind for Pettitte's final career start at the Stadium.
Eight strong innings with the lead, turn the ball over to Rivera.
After all, Rivera had saved a victory by Pettitte 72 times, the highest win-save combination for any pair of pitchers since saves became an official statistic in 1969, according to Elias.
On Mariano Rivera Day at the Stadium, nothing would have been more fitting.
Much of Sunday afternoon, things seemed headed that way. Instead, the Yankees sustained a 2-1 loss to the Giants that badly damaged their already dim playoff hopes.
"I felt like it always seems to happen," Pettitte (10-11, 3.88) said of a late-inning rally. "I really thought it was going to happen again today."
But those kinds of storybook finishes, a hallmark of so many past Yankees teams on which Pettitte played, aren't as much a part of the 2013 version.
The Yankees (82-74), now four games out of the second wild-card spot with six to play, blew several chances against the Giants, most strikingly in the eighth inning, when they failed to capitalize on a second-and-third, none-out situation and had two men thrown out at the plate.
"We're absolutely in the must-win situation," Joe Girardi said of this final week. But even running the table might not be enough, given the amount of help needed by the Yankees with four teams ahead of them.
"We have to try and pull off a miracle here," Pettitte said.
Pettitte -- who started against Yusmeiro Petit -- looked as if he might have one in store, holding the Giants hitless for 51/3 innings. That ended when Pettitte, who has a 2.09 ERA in his last nine starts, allowed No. 9 hitter Ehire Adrianza's first career homer and third major-league hit. It matched Mark Reynolds' long homer, tied the score at 1-1 and was the only hit off Pettitte through seven innings.
Pettitte, whose season high for pitches in a game was 110, came out to start the eighth at 102. Girardi let him face Pablo Sandoval and Pettitte got ahead of the hulking third baseman 0-and-1 before Sandoval lined a double into the leftfield corner.
As Girardi came out of the dugout, Pettitte slammed his glove against his side. Enveloped by noise on his way off the mound, he stopped short of the dugout and doffed his cap to the roaring crowd.
As David Robertson warmed up on the mound, the fans demanded a curtain call and got it, with Pettitte again doffing his cap. Giants players and manager Bruce Bochy also applauded.
Robertson then allowed Tony Abreu's RBI double to right, making it 2-1. Girardi said he went to Robertson because of the reliever's curveball, a pitch Girardi estimated Abreu had one previous hit off this season.
"I threw a good curveball, he hit it," Robertson said. "Just a bad break. I feel like I let everybody down, I let Andy down."
Pettitte, third on the franchise's wins list (218) and the major-league leader in postseason wins (19), blamed himself. "I made a terrible mistake in the eighth inning," he said, "and that ended up being the ballgame."
Rivera replaced Robertson and pitched 12/3 scoreless innings, but the Yankees couldn't get the closer the victory.
After putting runners on second and third with one out in the seventh but failing to score, the Yankees blew another opportunity in the eighth.
With runners on second and third and none out after Alex Rodriguez's single and Robinson Cano's double, pinch runner Zoilo Almonte took off on contact on Alfonso Soriano's grounder in the hole at third. Nick Noonan easily threw him out at the plate, and Cano failed to advance to third on the play. Then, after Curtis Granderson struck out on three pitches, Eduardo Nuñez singled sharply to left -- and Juan Perez threw out Cano at the plate.
"It's difficult," Girardi said. "But this team has fought all year long and we're going to have to continue to do it. To lose a game 2-1 when you have opportunities . . . it's hard."