Mariano Rivera bid his final goodbye to Yankee Stadium on Thursday night in his last career appearance in the Bronx. The closer entered New York’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays with one out in the eighth inning, retiring every batter he faced.
The 43-year-old faced four batters, until Joe Girardi pulled him with one out remaining, in order for him to get one final standing ovation. Instead of taking out Rivera himself, the manager sent Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter to the mound, who combined have been teammates with the reliever for 34 seasons. The 48,675 fans in attendance stood on their feet, as Rivera handed off the ball to Pettitte and wept on his way off the mound.
“I was bombarded with emotions and feeling that I couldn’t describe,” Rivera said after the Yankees 4-0 loss. “Everything hit at that time. I knew that was the last time. Period. I never felt like that before.”
In the eighth inning, Girardi decided it would be fitting for the two longtime Yankee veterans to greet Rivera at the mound. Before the top of the ninth, the umpires gave the manager the go-ahead.
“I've never seen a player pull another player, so I had to ask. And then one of them was on the DL," Girardi said in the postgame press conference.
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Rivera’s career will come to an end this weekend when the Yankees visit the Houston Astros. There’s a chance he’ll even get to play centerfield in the final game, which has been a dream of his. Girardi said he might put Rivera in the outfield for the eighth inning and have him pitch the ninth.
In his 19th and final season, Rivera continued his stretch of dominance. His 44 saves are third in the MLB. Heading into the final series of 2013, he has a 2.11 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. Rivera’s career 2.21 ERA ranks 13th all-time among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched.