NEW YORK – The Washington Generals went off the script.
The Giants were just supposed to show up. Be mere witness to Mariano Rivera’s grand tribute. Let Andy Pettitte walk off the mound for the last time at Yankee Stadium, waggle his cap, and then shake Rivera’s hand after a save.
It is not a mere errand when the most revered organization in American sport retires a number of a player in the act of wearing it.
But moments after Petitte walked off, ten thousand hearts full, and with Rivera beginning to glide down the bullpen mound, the Giants had the temerity to improvise.
They took a lead.
Tony Abreu’s double scored pinch runner Nick Noonan with the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning and a kid from the Bronx stole Rivera’s job by making the save of the game. Left fielder Juan Perez threw out a runner at home plate as the Giants won 2-1 to avoid being swept in three games at Yankee Stadium.
This was Rivera’s day. The Giants had no wish to mar it. But they wanted to win. Players got to eat, too.
It’s been a meager feast this season, but for the first time all year, the Giants posted a winning record on a multi-city trip. This one was a New York history tour – first to Los Angeles to play the former Brooklyn Dodgers, then a week split between Queens and the Bronx against the Mets and Yankees.
They went 6-4 on the trip and finished the season with a 34-46 road record. (It’s just 80 games because the July 4 rainout at Cincinnati was made up at AT&T Park.)
Starting pitching report
Pitchers like Yusmeiro Petit usually try to win a roster spot in spring training. He might have locked one up this September.
Petit didn’t get a decision, but he became the first Giant to pitch the club to victories in his first six starts of a season since Jason Schmidt in 2003. He certainly did enough to win, holding the Yankees to six hits in 6 1/3 innings and walking off the mound in a 1-1 game.
Mark Reynolds hit a home run in the third inning off Petit, who otherwise worked quickly and efficiently yet again. He has a 2.54 ERA in those six starts since joining the Giants from their holding pen in Triple-A Fresno.
The Yankees got the matchup they wanted in the seventh against left-hander Javier Lopez, as manager Joe Girardi burned announced pinch hitter Lyle Overbay for Vernon Wells.
But Lopez has elevated his game against right-handers this year, too. He struck out Wells and did the same to Ichiro Suzuki to strand Petit’s two runners. Lopez has stranded all but six of the 57 runners he has inherited this year.
It was a little sketchier in the eighth for Santiago Casilla after Alex Rodriguez singled and stopped at third on Robinson Cano’s double. The Yankees had three shots to make a winner of Rivera, who had gotten the final two outs in the top of the eighth.
But Noonan, who pinch-ran for Pablo Sandoval following his double in the eighth, made a diving stop of Alfonso Soriano’s ground ball at third base and quickly threw home. Pinch runner Zoilo Almonte, perhaps thinking it was a line drive that could be caught, got a bad break and was tagged out easily. Cano failed to advance on the play as well.
Curtis Granderson struck out swinging but Eduardo Nunez came through with a single to left field. Cano rounded third and headed home with the apparent tying run, but Perez charged the ball, came up throwing and made one more impact defensive play in an abbreviated season charged with them. His throw was strong and on target, and the crowd groaned as Cano was tagged out.
Sergio Romo worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 36th save in 41 opportunities this season. He has 53 saves in his career – just 599 behind Rivera’s all-time record.
At the plate
If Pettitte had thrown a perfect game, or even a no-hitter, it would have found a nice spot amid the Yankees’ crowded lore. The left-hander didn’t allow a baserunner until Pablo Sandoval drew a two-out walk in the fifth.
The Giants didn’t have a hit until the sixth, when Adrianza surprised even the visiting dugout by popping his first big league home run. The skinny switch hitter from Venezuela isn’t known for his bat; he only hit two homers for Double-A Richmond this year and didn’t have any in 145 at-bats after being promoted to Fresno.
Pettitte didn’t allow another baserunner until the seventh, when Sandoval’s double drove him from the game. He walked off to a standing ovation, waved his cap for a curtain call and accepted hugs in the dugout. He’ll make one more big league start later this week, when the Yankees play at Houston.
It wasn’t the Yankees’ plan to bring Rivera in a 2-1 game, but that was the situation after Abreu hit a double off David Robertson. He struck out Adrianza, but not before shearing his bat on a foul ball. Then Angel Pagan hit a fly out that Granderson sprinted down in center field.
It was the 1,114th appearance of Rivera’s career.
The Giants don’t win this game without highlight plays on defense. Noonan’s diving stop and Perez’s arm – and maybe some bad Yankees baserunning – prevented Casilla from making a mess of things.
The Yankees announced 49,197 paid, and during the Rivera ceremony, the spectators in the visiting dugout were just as attentive and appreciative as the paying customers. The Giants applauded when Rivera thanked the visitors for the opportunity to compete against them.
The Giants gave Rivera a custom guitar based one designed by Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, signed by the band as well as Hall of Famer Willie Mays. The guitar had Rivera’s No.42, the Giants logo and an image of the Golden Gate Bridge. Four of the club’s coaches – former Yankees Roberto Kelly, Dave Righetti, Joe Lefebvre and Hensley Meulens, also presented Rivera with a Saul Levy watercolor depicting Rivera in action at AT&T Park. And the club made a $4200 donation to Rivera’s foundation.
The Giants acclimate themselves back to West Coast time before beginning their final homestand of the season on Tuesday. Matt Cain (8-9, 4.06 ERA) takes the mound against Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jim Ryu (13-7, 3.03) in the opener of a three-game rivalry series. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. PDT.
Madison Bumgarner (13-9, 2.77) takes on right-hander Ricky Nolasco (13-10, 3.55) on Wednesday. Tim Lincecum (10-14, 4.44) makes what could be his final start as a Giant on Thursday, opposing right-hander Edinson Volquez (9-12, 5.77).