Rapid Reaction: Rays 4, Yankees 0

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
10:25
PM ET
NEW YORK -- It was a scene reminiscent of the most memorable Yankees nights: a sold-out ballpark, an autumnal chill in the air and Mariano Rivera on the mound.

But nothing was on the line Thursday night, just one more chance to see the great Rivera pitch a ninth inning before he heads to Houston with the Yankees this weekend and, after that, into retirement. And neither Mo nor the Yankees disappointed the sellout crowd, with Rivera working out of an eighth-inning jam and then, after getting the first two outs of the ninth, being led off the mound by Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter following two tearful embraces that stopped the game for a solid five minutes.

Whoever came up with that idea deserves tons of credit. It was as memorable a moment in its own way as Lou Gehrig's poignant farewell speech more than 70 years ago.

And it rightfully -- and thankfully -- overshadowed the game, a lackluster affair in which the Yankees were handcuffed by Alex Cobb and the Rays, who completed the sweep and take the season series 12-7.

Paying respects: The Tampa Bay Rays stood as a group on the top step of their dugout and applauded as Mo entered the game, a very unusual and classy tribute from an opposing team.

Mysterious ways: Rather than save Rivera for the ninth inning -- and give him a clean inning to work with -- manager Joe Girardi chose to bring in Mo with runners on first and second and one out in the eighth when it became obvious Dellin Betances could not work his way out of it. Delmon Young laced Mo's first pitch into left-center field, where Zoilo Almonte ran it down. Mo then got Matt Joyce to hit a comebacker that ended the inning.

Ivan some runs! Ivan Nova pitched well enough to win -- seven innings, eight hits, two runs -- with a team that could hit, of course. But given zero run support by the anemic Yankees offense, he instead wound up with his sixth loss of the season.

[+] EnlargeMariano Rivera
Al Bello/Getty ImagesMariano Rivera took the mound one final time at Yankee Stadium.
Seventh hell: Young belted Nova's second pitch of the seventh inning over the center-field fence to give the Rays a 2-0 lead, and considering the Yankees had just one hit -- Eduardo Nunez's first-inning single -- to that point in the game, it looked huge.

Evan Almighty: Evan Longoria, who hit two home runs Wednesday night and drove in four of the Rays' eight runs, drove in the first run of Thursday night's game with a single off Nova that scored Wil Myers from second in the fourth inning. And he drove in the last two with a single off Betances in the eighth. That gave Longo eight RBIs in the three-game series.

Balsa wood: The Yankees managed just three baserunners through the first seven innings -- Nunez's single and walks to Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano -- and two of them were erased by double plays.

One more RISP fail: The Yankees finally chased Alex Cobb in the eighth with a leadoff double by Granderson and a single by Lyle Overbay -- but failed to get a run home as reliever Joel Peralta struck out Almonte and pinch hitter Vernon Wells and got J.R. Murphy to pop out to center.

Farewell party: A sellout crowd of 48,675 -- the third-largest of the season -- showed up to give Mo a proper send-off, waiting through the chilly 60-degree weather to see him pitch one more ninth inning. In the eighth, the crowd impatiently began a chant of "MA-REE-ANN-O" as Rivera began stretching in the bullpen.

What's next: The final road trip of the season kicks off Friday night in Houston, although right now only one pitching matchup is set.

Andy Pettitte (10-11, 3.88 ERA) will make the final start of his major league career in his home state Friday, facing RHP Paul Clemens (4-6, 5.69) in an 8:10 p.m. ET start. Girardi still has not named starters for Saturday's 7:10 p.m. game or Sunday's 2:10 p.m. season finale. Andrew Marchand will have you covered in Houston.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .269
HRM. Teixeira 21
RBIJ. Ellsbury 67
RB. Gardner 81
OPSB. Gardner .755
ERAH. Kuroda 3.81
SOM. Tanaka 135