Today was the last game of the season, and in true Yankee fashion this year, it was anything but normal.
Yankees started their final game with David Huff on the mound, who really did a pretty stellar job, 71 pitches, 5 innings, just 3 hits, 1 run, and 7 strikeouts. That lone run came as an RBI single back in the 1st inning, and the Astros would never cross the plate again for the entire game. Brett Marshall took his turn in the 6th and 7th innings, keeping Huff’s tight game rolling smoothly. Then in the 9th, the Yankees brought in the young Dellin Betances, who really just found his niche and brought the game to a whole new level.
The Yankees weren’t really doing much as far as offense, even with Travis Hafner’s comeback after his stint on the DL and promptly got on base due to being hit by an errant pitch twice. That is until the 8th inning. Eduardo Nunez doubled and scored on Curtis Granderson’s single to tie up the game. And then that’s all she wrote for 6 more innings. Oh sure, there were plenty of opportunities, like in the 9th when David Adams hit a really beautiful triple (his first career triple). Or in the 13th inning, with two men on base with a single and a really bad fielding error on a fielder’s choice, but again, they came up empty.
Keeping the game tied while the Yankees worked on finding their offense, Betances threw into the 10th and was pulled after the first out, with clear congratulations from Girardi and the entire Yankee team for a job well done. Claiborne finished the rest of the inning, and Phelps took the 11th. Matt Daley took over for the 12th and 13th.
And then the dam broke open in the 14th inning when Mark Reynolds hit a solid solo home run to left-center field. And the score was up to 2-1 Yankees. Two outs later, the Yankees weren’t done yet. Brendan Ryan and Zoilo Almonte single and then score on Eduardo Nunez’s double. Even after a pitching change, JR Murphy singles home Nunez (Murphy’s first career RBI), and the Yankees were leading 5-1.
And to close out the last game of the season, the Yankees got another preview of what it will be like when (hopefully) David Robertson closes out more Yankee wins next year. Robertson gave a solid 1-2-3 14th inning, and the Yankees finished their season with a sweep and a flair.
And while today’s game seemed more like a show of the future, the past looked on from the dugout. Pettitte, Jeter, and Sabathia congregated at one end of the dugout, watching all 14 innings draped over the guard rail. Rivera and Rodriguez chatted up at the other end. And then there was Jayson Nix, still out with his oblique injury, who somehow managed a role usually reserved for veteran or retiring players — manager for the day. That’s right, it was Nix calling the shots for 9 innings, and when the scoreboard rolled over to extra inning, Nix quit and handed the reins back to Girardi. Normally a fun last day job for veterans (last year, the honor went to Jeter, with Rodriguez as his bench coach), this year Rivera and Pettitte declined the honor saying they were “too busy”. From the looks of it, they were having fun being with the guys one last time, which I think is exactly where they wanted to be.
Prior to tonight’s game, the Astros honored Mariano Rivera with a special ceremony. They presented him with a painting of sorts, thirteen different highlights of his career over the number 42, a very creative gesture. Also at the ceremony were Roger Clemens, a former teammate, and Joe Torre, Rivera’s former manager and current MLB executive.
Torre and Clemens both gave wonderful speeches, honoring Rivera contributions to the Yankees, the entire sport of baseball, and to themselves personally. Torre also gave a special shout out to Pettitte and Jeter, who, with Rivera, he credits with making his job all that much easier. Torre is himself a figure of the “good old days” of Yankee history, but he understands the idea of finding and developing new, fresh talent. Torre was fortunate enough to be the Yankees manager when they were in the process of rebuilding, before anyone thought much of the Core Four. But he believed in their potential, combining that with the experience of the veterans in the clubhouse, and built a dynasty.
There is hope for the Yankees, and don’t let anyone tell you different. Look at who played for the Yankees today, and who made the difference in every aspect of the game — the pitching, the catching, the fielding, the hits — it all adds up for a great futures. And while they aren’t going to be playing October baseball, and have to instead say farewell to two more of the Core Four, maybe saying farewell to this entire rollercoaster year is a good thing. Close the door on that chapter and look forward to all the potential of 2014, some of it may already be lurking in the corners of the clubhouse, just waiting for the opportunity to spread their wings and do something Yankee-like. It could be the next dynasty in the making. You just never know.