From over-the-top celebration to overwhelming reality. There will be a time when the bigger picture comes into focus and this is remembered as a good day, but that time was not the first hour after the game when the Yankees couldn’t escape the fact their playoff hopes might have ended today.
“It’s hard to believe that we’re sitting here, and that we lost another game,” Andy Pettitte said. “This was a big loss, there’s no doubt about it, for what we’re trying to get to, our postseason chances here. But we’re not eliminated yet, and we’ve got to keep playing hard. Until somebody tells us that you know, we see the standings and we can’t pull it off anymore. We’ve got to try to pull off a miracle here.”
Pettitte was terrific, but he was predictably putting a hefty amount of blame on his own shoulders.
“I’ve tried to lay it out there all year long,” he said. “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 ending up being the ballgame.”
I guess that’s technically true. That was the winning run. It was also one of only two hits Pettitte allowed. It was Dave Robertson who gave up the winning hit. It was Zoilo Almonte who made a costly base-running blunder. It was Vernon Wells, Ichiro Suzuki and Curtis Granderson who struck out in key at-bats with runners in scoring position.
But Pettitte and Mariano Rivera have legacies built on winning, and in this moment, they’re simply baseball players who didn’t win today.
“I was hoping that Andy could hold the other team for as much as he could, he’d leave the game with the lead and I can save the game,” Rivera said. “That was my hope. I didn’t want to come into the situation that I did. Not that I didn’t want to pitch, but I didn’t prefer it to be that situation. I would have loved to come into a save situation so maybe I could have saved the game.”
Rivera pitched out of a jam, delivered a scoreless ninth and was ready to get seven outs if necessary. Pettitte had a perfect game going into the sixth and made his farewell outing a vintage performance. If this day could have been all about those two, it would have been perfect.
But the Yankees needed to win, and that didn’t happen.
“And that’s disappointing,” Pettitte said. “Because it’s all about that. Of course, I appreciate (the ovation), and I loved it. 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. But it’s just extremely, extremely disappointing to know that we may not be there. 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.”
We’ll probably spend a lot of tomorrow’s off day looking back on some of the brighter spots of this day — the Rivera ceremony and the Pettitte ovation — but for now, here’s one quick quote from Rivera and one from Pettitte.
Rivera: “What surprised me the most? Oh my God. To see the band there, Metallica, out there playing the song. The whole thing was special. I wasn’t expecting something like that. Seeing my ex-teammates, the whole stadium packed with a lot of flags and fellow Panamanians from Panama. It was a lot of emotions. It was more than what I was thinking, because I didn’t know anything. They didn’t want to tell me anything. It was great.”
Pettitte: “It was great, it really was. It was amazing. It’s just kind of funny, it ended giving up a double and usually I sprint off the mound because I’m so mad I’m getting pulled out of the game. That was a situation right there where you’re just thinking about the pitch you just made, the mistake you just made, and Joe has to come and get you. 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.”
• Joe Girardi said the emotion of the day played no role in his decision to have Pettitte start the eighth inning and face Pablo Sandoval, who ultimately doubled. “Sandoval you want to hit right-handed opposed to left-handed,” Girardi said. “Andy’s stuff, to me, was still really good.”
• As for not going to Rivera as soon as Dave Robertson let the go-ahead run reach third base on a grounder to first: “I’ve got a strikeout pitcher on the mound and (Tony Abreu) has struggled against curveballs more than any pitch that he’s struggled against,” Girardi said. “Under .100. And he ends up hitting a curveball, maybe his second hit on a curveball, and that’s why I left (Robertson) in there.”
• If Rivera and Pettitte seemed disappointed postgame, it was nothing compared to Robertson. “I was trying to get a ground ball, keep it in the infield, or a swing and a miss, and he ropes it down the line for a double,” Robertson said. “It’s like, worst-case scenario just happened. I threw five pitches and I was out. … I threw a good curveball. He hit it. That’s just a bad break today. I feel like I let everybody down. I let Andy down. It was a tough situation, but of all the days, I should have been able to find a way to get out of it.”
• Robertson said he actually didn’t know Abreu was a terrible curveball pitcher, but he knew J.R. Murphy would be getting that information from the dugout. “J.R. would know what to put down, so I was going with him since I came in,” Robertson said.
• As for Zoilo Almonte’s base-running decision in the eighth, third-base coach Rob Thomson said Almonte decided to go as soon as he saw the third baseman dive. “The third baseman got back on his feet quickly and made the throw to the plate,” Thomson said. “… (Almonte)’s a good young player. It doesn’t matter how old you are, sometimes you make mistakes, and that’s the way it is. He was being aggressive. He saw something and reacted to it.”
• Any regret about sending Robinson Cano in the eighth? Cano was thrown out to end that inning. “Not one bit,” Thomson said. “If that was the last out of the World Series, I’d send him every time.”
• Cano came up hobbled a little bit after that play. Doesn’t seem too bad. He stayed in the game. “He said he turned his ankle,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure if he did it when he slid or when he hit the bag. I think he did it when he slid. He thinks he’s OK. We’ll see how he is Tuesday.” Girardi said he does not believe Cano’s ankle impacted his ability to get to the plate.
• This was Cano’s fourth multi-hit game in the past five. He was 3-for-4 with a double.
• Mark Reynolds hit his 20th home run of the season. This is the sixth straight season he’s reached that number.
• If the Yankees had taken the lead, Rivera was going to go back out for the 10th inning. “He was going back out,” Girardi said. “I think he had 12 pitches at the time. He was going to go back out. Mo has talked about, he’s got nothing to save, in a sense. There is no next year and it’s just what he does. He gives you everything he has.”
• Did Pettitte ever think about the idea of a perfect game or a no-hitter? “I felt really good, I felt like my command was really good,” Pettitte said. “I knew I had had it. 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.”
• Girardi said the Yankees kept getting updates about how much longer first pitch would be delayed, so Pettitte had a good idea of when he needed to start his pregame routine. “I’m doing my pregame routine and I’m trying to watch, see on TVs in the weight room as I’m getting loose, what’s going on out there,” Pettitte said. “Then, obviously, going on the field and Metallica is playing and trying to get loose and then in between innings, everyone is talking. So the focus, it was a grind. I was worried about the first inning, just settling in. once I got through that, it was pretty good.”
• We’ll, of course, give the final word to Rivera: “I decided that I’m going to enjoy every bit of it. It has been a little bit rough in all the events that have happened, making time for thanks to people, thanks to fans, thanks to workers for the organizations that I have played against. But at the same time, it has been great. No regrets. It has been wonderful. The only thing that I wish is we could be in a different position than we are now.”
Associated Press photos