Postgame Notebook: Yankees lose heartbreaker on Rivera and Pettitte's day
"It's difficult, especially seeing all the players and all the people who came back today," manager Joe Girardi said of the loss, "(because) this team has fought all year long and we're going to have to continue to do it. To lose a game 2-1 when you have opportunities and Andy pitches a tremendous game, it's hard."
Rivera's farewell ceremony delayed the already-delayed start time by just a little bit, but as Joe Girardi predicted pregame, Pettitte wasn't fazed in the slightest. He was perfect into the fifth inning and had a no-hitter into the sixth, when rookie shortstop Ehire Adrianza's solo homer broke up what was shaping up to be an almost picture-perfect storybook ending.
"We were given some heads up that we were a little late, but I thought Andy handled it tremendously," Girardi said. "He came out and threw as good a game as he has all season. It didn't seem to bother him."
A Mark Reynolds solo homer in the third had the Yankees up 1-0 early, and a buzz began circulating in the crowd as folks started to realize that Pettitte had held the Giants to a zero in the middle column of the linescore through the first five -- a fact that wasn't lost on the lefty, either, even if he didn't physically think he could finish.
"I definitely knew that I had a no-hitter; I'd be lying if I sat here and said (I wasn't thinking about it)," Pettitte said. "I felt really good and felt like my command was really good. At this stage, though, I don't think my body will allow me to pitch nine innings; it felt good to dream or think about it, but it helped me mentally in thinking to just make my pitches and go as hard as I can for as long as I can."
Pettitte got it through seven and kept it 1-1, but the wheels fell off the apple cart, so to speak. In the bottom of that frame, singles by Eduardo Nunez and Brendan Ryan and then a passed ball put runners on second and third with one out, but Vernon Wells and Ichiro struck out back-to-back to end any threat.
"We had some opportunities in the seventh and we were weren't able to cash in," Girardi said, "and when you get second and third and nobody out and can't cash in, it's frustrating.
The skipper sent his lefty back out there for the eighth, but as he revealed, it wasn't a decision made to give Pettitte one more batter and take him out for the standing ovation he was sure to (and indeed did) receive."
"Sandoval you want to hit right-handed, and Andy's stuff to me was still really good," Girardi said.
Pettitte was replaced by David Robertson after allowing a double to Sandoval, and after a groundout moved pinch-runner Nick Noonan to third, Girardi stuck with Robertson against Tony Abreu instead of going to an already-warming Rivera, and the result was a double that gave the Giants the lead.
"I had a strikeout pitcher on the mound… Abreu has struggled with curveballs more than any other pitch - he's under .100," Girardi said, "and he ends up hitting a curve ball, maybe his second hit all year on a curveball."
"It's like a worst case scenario, but it happened," Robertson said. "I figured the call would come from the coaches and (catcher) J.R. (Murphy) would know what to put down, so I was going with him. I threw a good curveball, but Abreu hit it…it's a bad break today, and I feel like I let everybody down."
Rivera did come in after that and got two quick outs to end the inning, setting the stage for the last Yankees rally, which started with an Alex Rodriguez single and a double by Robinson Cano - but then, what Girardi acknowledged as a rookie mistake may have cost the Yankees a win.
Alfonso Soriano hit a smash to third baseman Noonan, but Almonte hesitated slightly and then ran home, getting thrown out at the plate by a good margin.
"I think it was just a bad move. It was a young kid maybe trying to do too much," Girardi said.
Curtis Granderson then struck out, and then to add injury to insult, Robinson Cano ended the inning by being cut down at the plate on Eduardo Nunez's single, appearing to tweak something in his leg at some point in the final exchange.
"He turned his ankle and I'm not sure if he did it when he slid or hit the bag, but I think he did it when he slid," Girardi said. "He says he's okay, and we'll see how he feels Tuesday."
Cano stayed in and turned a nifty double play to atone for a defensive miscue and got Rivera out of a ninth-inning jam, but the Yankees were unable to rally and went down 1-2-3 in the ninth.
But if they had tied the game, Girardi said, there was no question who was pitching.
"(Rivera) was going back out there; I think he had 12 pitches at the time," Girardi said. "I've said and he's said it, but Mo has nothing to save in a sense; there is no next year. It's what he does, he gives you everything he has."
Unfortunately, that wasn't enough, and thanks to wins by Kansas City, Cleveland and Tampa Bay earlier Sunday, the Yankees head into the season's final week fifth in the Wild Card chase, four back of the Indians and Rays with six to play and a season-making (or breaking) three-game set with Joe Maddon's club on the horizon.
So, it's not yet a true do-or-die scenario for the Yankees, but as Girardi surmised, the Yankees' latest defeat is likely the last one they can take.
"We're still alive obviously, but this one really hurts," the skipper said, "(and now) absolutely every game is a must win situation."
That statement was echoed by Robertson, who intimated the team knows all they can do now is hold up their end and hope for some help.
"We're in a dogfight. We knew coming into today that we couldn't lose anymore ball games, and nothing's changed," he said. "We just have to come out Tuesday and start a six-game winning streak…that's all we can do."