The 2-1 win by the Yankees over the Astros at Minute Maid Park gave Andrew Eugene Pettitte a win in his final start for the Yankees. It was the 256th win of his career and 219th with the Yankees (he pitched three seasons for the Astros). His 219 wins are the third most in the illustrious history of the Yankees.
It is only fitting that Andy Pettitte’s final Major League start came in Houston because that is where he is from. He actually lives in Deer Park, and Pettitte said that it is a 20-minute drive from Minute Maid Park. Pettitte said that he left tickets for 50 family and friends to attend this game. Tonight showed how much the city of Houston is behind Pettitte because he got a standing ovation in the eighth inning and again in the ninth inning.
After the game, Joe Girardi said that it was going to be Pettitte’s call when or if he came out of the game. In the ninth inning, with Chris Carter on first base, Giradi came to the mound to see if he had enough in him to get the final out, and Pettitte said he wanted to do it. He ended up allowing only five hits and one run in his final Major League start. It was his first complete game since a start in 2006 for the Astros.
He was able to induce the final two double plays of his career to go along with adding five more strikeouts. His strikeout of Brandon Barnes in the eighth inning was his 2,448th of his career. There were only two innings where the Astros had runners in scoring position, and the only run the Astros scored was on a groundout by Chris Carter.
The Yankees scored both of their runs in the sixth inning. Robinson Cano’s single to shallow right, which was one of his two hits, drove in Chris Stewart. That RBI was Cano’s 107th of the season. Eduardo Nunez scored what ended up being the winning run, as the Astros catcher, Matt Pagnozzi, spiked the ball into the ground as he was trying to throw to second allowing Nunez to score from third.
He finished with 275 wins when you combine his wins from the regular season and the postseason. His 19 playoff wins are the most in MLB history. He has pitched 67.2 innings more in the postseason than the second place finisher, John Smoltz, but it is impressive that he has not let the increased pressure of the playoff games get to him.
One of his best games of his career came in Game 5 of the ’96 World Series where he out-dueled John Smoltz. This was his second season and in a match-up against Smoltz he allowed only five hits in a game the Yankees would win 1-0. 1996 would be the first of Pettitte’s five World Series championships.
Pettitte is retiring after 18 seasons pitched in the major leagues, 15 for the Yankees and three for the Astros. The win on Saturday night had added significance because it meant that he never had a record below .500 in any of his 18 seasons (11-11 this season). He is the only pitcher in baseball history to pitch at least 15 seasons and not have one season under .500. He finished with a career record of 256 and 153 and a 3.85 ERA. The high ERA and admitted PED usage might keep him out of the Hall of Fame but he would be worthy based on his other numbers.
In his final 10 starts this season, Pettitte had a remarkable 1.94 ERA. His cutter was on point during the whole game. It is fitting that during his final start he had a season-high of 116 pitches since he always wanted to do all he could to get the Yankees a win and that is exactly what he did in this start. He is one of the best competitors in baseball history and that is what he did up until the very end.
Mariano Rivera announced before Saturday’s game that he will not pitch or play the outfield in Sunday’s game. He thought that based on his performance and ceremony during Thursday’s game at Yankee Stadium that that was a perfect way to go out. There were rumors of him getting a few innings in centerfield as he has often put on a show in batting practice but he has developed an injury based on his increased usage to end the season.
However, even though it would have made sense for two of the great winners in MLB history to make the playoffs in their final season, it is great that Rivera and Pettitte were both able to end their careers pitching well.