HOUSTON -- The assumed perfect ending for Andy Pettitte's final career start wasn't possible. Not with Mariano Rivera saying "I'm done" before first pitch, having decided that Thursday's emotional send-off was the perfect way for his career to end.
So Pettitte authored his own ending. Come to think of it, this one might have been even better than the one in which Rivera finishes up for him.
Pettitte, 41, pitching in his hometown as he wrapped up an 18-year career, threw a complete game in leading the Yankees to a 2-1 win over the Astros in front of a crowd of 37,199 at Minute Maid Park that included 50 of Pettitte's family members.
"I couldn't have dreamed of this to work out the way it did," Pettitte said. "I feel so blessed. I just feel like God worked this out exactly perfect. Just another day I'll never forget."
It was the 256th win of Pettitte's career and No. 219 for the Yankees, third on the franchise's all-time list. He finished at 11-11, ensuring that he would never have a losing season.
Joe Girardi, who let Pettitte decide how long he would stay in the game, said that was important. "It really felt like a playoff game because we wanted this win for him so bad," Girardi said. "He had never had a losing season. It was pretty emotional."
With Pettitte at 105 pitches -- five fewer than his season high -- through eight innings, Girardi sent him out for the ninth. He quickly retired the first two hitters while hearing rousing chants of "Andy Pettitte! Andy Pettitte!"
When Chris Carter singled to break up a string of 11 straight retired and extend the pitch count to 114, Girardi visited the mound, getting soundly booed, for a quick word. He tapped Pettitte in the stomach and departed.
"It's still up to you," Girardi told Pettitte, who said that after eight innings, "everything was hurting." But he certainly wasn't going to give himself the hook.
Pitch No. 116 resulted in a groundout to third to end Pettitte's first complete game since Aug. 16, 2006. "He'll probably have to see Dr. Andrews after the game," Derek Jeter joked.
Pettitte basked in more chants from the fans, who were in no hurry to depart, and teammates lined up to hug him one at a time. After each teammate had been hugged, the fans continued to cheer and were joined by the Astros, who stood and cheered outside their dugout. Pettitte was pushed to the mound by the Yankees for one final moment alone in the spotlight. "It was a moment I feel like I didn't deserve," he said, his voice cracking. "And I just appreciated it."
Pettitte allowed five hits and two walks, striking out five Astros. He went 4-2 with a 1.94 ERA in his final 10 starts and was by far the Yankees' best pitcher as they unsuccessfully tried to mount a late-season charge into the postseason. "He pitched like that when we needed it most," Girardi said. "Classic Andy."
Pettitte fell behind 1-0 in the fourth when Jose Altuve scored from second on a one-out groundout to short, but the Yankees went ahead in the sixth. After an RBI single by Robinson Cano, Eduardo Nuñez scored the go-ahead run with two outs when Astros catcher Matt Pagnozzi inadvertently spiked the ball into the ground for an error while trying to throw to second on an attempted pickoff.
Pettitte said he prepared for this start like any other, knowing full well it wasn't. Early in the day, he found himself reflecting on his career, which he began as a 22nd-round draft pick in 1990.
"The whole day was hard," Pettitte said. "I found myself getting emotional before the game and said, 'This is not good.' "
But it was all good, perfect as far as he and his teammates were concerned. "I was pulling for him," said Rivera, who saved 72 of Pettitte's victories. "I'm glad it happened like that. He did great."
And now, for the second -- and final -- time, Pettitte will head home to his family.
"It's a shame we have to get old, but I'm so excited about being at home," Pettitte said. "It's time . . . I feel like I've milked every ounce of talent out of the body God gave me."