Pettitte pitches gem in final Stadium start

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
7:16
PM ET
NEW YORK -- As Andy Pettitte ran off the Yankee Stadium mound for the last time of his career, the fans stood and applauded, wanting to give him a proper sendoff.

They chanted his name and roared when the soon-to-be-retired pitcher tipped his hat to them before he made his way into the dugout for a procession of hugs and handshakes with teammates.

[+] EnlargeAndy Pettitte
Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY SportsAndy Pettitte got a curtain call in his final-regular season start.
When he returned from the dugout for a curtain call, the fans erupted once again, thanking Pettitte for the last great home outing of his 15 years in pinstripes.

"It was a great moment for me, and I really enjoyed it," Pettitte said. "I'm glad I had the opportunity to do that. The fans were awesome, like they've always been for me."

In his final regular-season start at Yankee Stadium before his second retirement, Pettitte pitched one of his best games of the season in the Yankees' 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Sunday. While Pettitte suffered the loss, he gave up just two runs on two hits over seven innings.

"It was almost like a playoff game, and, obviously, I've had an opportunity to pitch in a lot of those," Pettitte said. "It was all just trying to control all that, and it was the magnitude for me of almost like a playoff game and the way everything was going on around you."

When Pettitte announced Friday he would be retiring for the second time, it set up Sunday as his final home start because the Yankees likely won't be going to the playoffs. His start coincided with the Yankees' planned ceremony to honor closer Mariano Rivera, who is also retiring at season's end.

As the Yankees honored Rivera before the game, and between innings with clips of famous personalities congratulating him on his career, Pettitte added to the memorable day with perhaps the last gem of his career. Pettitte had all his pitches working and carried a perfect game into the fifth inning before walking Pablo Sandoval and a no-hitter into the sixth before yielding a homer to Ehire Adrianza.

After giving up a double to start the eighth, which ultimately proved to be the decisive run, Pettitte slapped his leg in frustration as Yankees manager Joe Girardi came out to take the ball from him. When he made his way to the dugout after being pulled, the first teammate to embrace him was longtime teammate Derek Jeter, and the two shared a hug.

"I thought it was special that Andy had a chance to pitch. He did a great job," Jeter said. "I thought what the fans did for him was just as good as Mo."

One of the qualities that endeared Pettitte to his teammates in his 18-year career was his competitive nature, how he treated each game with such passion and fire, whether it was an April start or one in deep October. Even on a day as sentimental as Sunday, the southpaw couldn't help but fixate on what the loss meant to the Yankees' playoff chances.

Like it's always been with Pettitte, winning was the No. 1 thing.

"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 disappointing to know that we may not be there," Pettitte said about the playoffs. "It's out of our hands. That's the most frustrating part. We haven't played that well the last few weeks, and that's really, really disappointing."

Matt Ehalt

ESPN New York contributor

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .283
HRM. Teixeira 17
RBIM. Teixeira 47
RB. Gardner 54
OPSM. Teixeira .794
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135