Pettitte-Rivera duo a treat to be savored as clock ticks
NEW YORK -- On a cold and windy night in the Bronx, Yankees fans were treated to another page in their club's long and storied history.
For the first time since July 8, 2010, in Seattle, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera both pitched for the Yankees in a regular-season game. Just like Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, Pettitte started, Rivera finished, and the Yankees won, this time defeating the Red Sox, 4-2.
How many times this will occur again is up to the strange twists of injury and fate. Rivera has announced he will retire at the end of the season. Pettitte, who quit once already, isn't really sure what he'll be doing next year. Of this, though, one matter is certain: The '13 season will be it. So enjoy every last minute of it.
"It's special," said Pettitte, after throwing eight innings of one-run, eight-hit ball before Rivera came on and characteristically nailed down the ninth. "It'll be special for me watching him this year and know that after this he won't be closing any games for us. I'll savor it as much as I can. But we have a lot of work to do, a task at hand that we have to focus on, also."
The two have been working like this together almost exclusively since 1997, when Rivera became the Yankees' closer, save for Pettitte's three years playing for the Astros from 2004-'07. Since then, Rivera has saved 69 of Pettitte's 246 wins. Rivera's save on Thursday night stretched his all-time lead to 609 and was his first since April 30. He has had one in at least 18 seasons, tying another Major League record.
To put it all into perspective, the last time Rivera saved one for Pettitte during the regular season, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and esteemed public address announcer Bob Sheppard were still alive. Less than a week later, both men had passed away.
On July 19, 2010, Pettitte injured a groin, missed most of the remainder of the '10 season and then voluntarily sat out '11. Pettitte re-signed during Spring Training of '12 and by the time he returned on May 13, Rivera had already blown out his right ACL shagging a fly ball during batting practice before a game in Kansas City. Rivera missed the remainder of the season. A little more than a month later, Pettitte had his left ankle broken by a batted ball. He went on the disabled list for nearly three months.
This is the rough road these two baseball warriors have traveled leading to the events of Thursday night. This one was vintage.
"For this one, I waited almost a year to pitch again," Rivera said. "Andy was tremendous. That's the Andy that we know. It was wonderful."
It felt like old times, Yankees manager Joe Girardi agreed.
"It did a little bit," said Girardi, a teammate of both players from '96-'99. "As a fan, I appreciate what these two have done together -- the amount of saves that Mo has for Andy's wins, the amount of wins that Andy had, his postseason wins. I know I've caught both of them. I've managed both of them. But as a fan, it's really kind of neat to see."
Pettitte has 19 wins and Rivera has 42 saves in the postseason, both all-time records. Together in New York, they've won the World Series five times along with seven American League pennants. In the '10 AL Division Series against the Twins, Rivera locked down Pettitte's win in Game 2 at Target Field. That's a lot of history together.
"It's cool, there's no doubt," Pettitte said. "When we're done, we'll step back and realize how long we've been together and the great things we've been able to do together. And how blessed we were."
With Jorge Posada having retired after the '11 season and Derek Jeter on the disabled list, still recovering from a broken ankle, Rivera and Pettitte are the two remaining active members of the famous Core Four. Adding Bernie Williams, they all came up through the Yankees' system and have been a part of the most prolonged period of Yankees success since the Bombers of Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle won 15 pennants and 10 World Series titles from 1947-64.
As Jeter is so fond of goading Berra, that occurred before '69 when teams in each league simply won the pennant and then played each other in the World Series. During the much more difficult three-tiered playoff era in which Pettitte and Rivera have played, the Yankees have been to the playoffs an unprecedented 17 times in the past 18 years.
That's plenty of winning. And that's what the two teammates did again together on Thursday night.
"I expect to go out there and do good," Pettitte said. "And I love that Mo was out last year and he came back and he's healthy. When I was pitching last year, he wasn't out there. It's great to see him running in from that bullpen and closing games again. But it's not about old times. It's about the new guys we have on this team right here and pulling this thing together to win another championship."
Catch them while you can, because the clock is certainly ticking.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.