Perfect Ending for Andy Pettitte

September 28, 2013 – Andy Pettitte pitched the final game of his life tonight, and he put forth a performance that epitomized his great career.

Pettitte only gave up one run over nine innings. He earned the win, and improved his 2013 record to 11-11. He also became the first pitcher to go 18 seasons without a losing record.

But tonight was about more than just numbers.

In his final act, Pettitte was as gutsy as ever. It was like a vintage postseason game in which Pettitte refused to be beat.

Pettitte allowed one man to reach base in each of the first six innings, yet only one of those runners reached home. He was never actually in trouble but he battled back in almost every inning to keep the Astros off the board.

Even the one run that the Astros scored off Pettitte almost didn’t happen. After giving up a leadoff single to the speedy Jose Altuve, Pettitte got Matt Dominguez on a ground ball that moved Altuve to second. The next batter, Chris Carter, hit a ground ball to short. Altuve was running on the pitch that Carter hit, and he was almost at third base when Yankees shortstop Brendan Ryan fielded the ball. Ryan had no play at third, and so he throw to first for the sure out. Altuve rounded third and beat first baseman Lyle Overbay’s throw to the plate by a half second.

As the game went on, Pettitte dug deeper. He got stronger. The lefty struck out the first two batters of the 8th inning, then got the final out on a ground ball to Robinson Cano at second base. The crowd gave Pettitte a standing ovation, and the pitcher pumped his fist and walked off the mound.

After the game, Pettitte said that Joe Girardi left the decision on whether to pitch the 9th inning up to him. Pettitte took advantage of the rare opportunity to choose his fate, and he took on the challenge of retiring the Astros in the final frame of the 2-1 game.

As Pettitte emerged from the dugout, the Minute Maid Park crowd gave him a standing ovation. They remained standing for the remainder of the game. They cheered loudly as Pettitte retired the first two batters. After Pettitte gave up a single to first baseman Chris Carter, Girardi walked to the mound amid a crescendo of boos. But again, the skipper left the decision up to Pettitte.

To no-one’s surprise, Pettitte stayed in the game, and as he had done the entire night and for 18 big-league seasons, he got an out when he needed it most.

When Pettitte got leftfielder J.D. Martinez to ground out to end the game, he added to his legacy as one of the greatest Yankees of all-time. Pettitte hadn’t pitched a complete game all season, and last Sunday, he wondered if he had the enough left in the tank to go all nine. He was admittedly sore when he took the mound for the last inning of his career, but on this night, Pettitte was determined to go the distance.

The moments after the game were as special as those during. Pettitte hugged every teammate and coach. Then Girardi embraced him and pushed him out onto the infield for one last curtain call. The crowd of 37,199 — most of whom had not left — cheered once more. The Yankees applauded Pettitte as did the entire Astros team.

Of all the topics Pettitte talked about after the game, only one got him chocked up. When Pettitte was asked about the applause he received from his teammates and the guys he had just defeated, his eyes welled up.

Pettitte deserves all the accolades he has received because he played the game the right way. That’s why every player stood on the field and clapped for him. It was the perfect ending for one of the most perfect Yankees.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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