There was a baseball game to be played on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, but that was secondary in the Bronx, because the fans and everyone else in attendance were there to see one guy grace the mound for one last appearance in pinstripes.
The 43-year-old closer is retiring at the end of the 2013 season and with the Yankees officially eliminated from postseason contention, the game on Thursday night would be the final time that Rivera would ever pitch for the Yankees.
With the Rays leading the game 4-0 in the top of the eighth inning and Dellin Betances struggling, Yankees manager Joe Girardi came out to remove Betances and called on Rivera to come into the game and was greeted with a thunderous ovation, which included the entire Tampa Bay Rays bench standing and applauding as Rivera trotted in while "Enter Sandman" was playing.
With runners on first and second, Delmon Young lined out to left field for the second out of the inning and Sam Fuld grounded out to Rivera for the third and final out of the inning amd kept the game at 4-0.
In the top of the ninth inning, Rivera came out for one final appearance and finish what he had started. Jose Lobaton grounded out to Rivera for the first out of the inning and then Yunel Escobar popped out to second for the second out of the inning, and then time suddenly stood still.
Out to the mound wasn't Girardi, but Rivera's long-time teammates, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, as they came to the mound to take Rivera out for the final time in the Bronx, which lead to Rivera breaking down into tears from the moment and hugging both Pettitte and Jeter, then left to another thunderous ovation from the Yankee faithful in the Bronx.
Before the ninth inning started, the crowd in the stadium started to chant Andy Pettitte's name, as the 41-year-old came out and took a curtain call, waving to the fans and thanking them, as he will also be retiring at the end of the season; his last start ever will be made on Saturday.
The Yankees went quietly in the ninth inning and lost the game 4-0 to the Rays, but in the end, nobody cared about the loss. Thursday night was about Rivera, who sat in the dugout all by himself after the game, then came out to the mound, scooped up some dirt, waved to the crowd, and then departed into the locker room.
Rivera went 1.1 innings of relief, allowed no runs and no hits, walked none and struck out none in his final ever appearance in the pinstripes. The Yankees have one final series left in the regular season with the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, and it's unknown if Rivera will pitch in that series, so this might have been the final time that Rivera ever throws a baseball in the professional level.
Three more games left for Rivera in the major leagues, and then the five year wait until Rivera is enshrined at Cooperstown and in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Video credit: MLB.com
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