With Andy Pettitte making the final start of his career tonight in Houston, and Mariano Rivera retiring, the end of one of the greatest era’s in sports history is upon us.
Both players broke into the big leagues in 1995, and by 1996, had become major contributors. Mariano Rivera and John Whettland anchored a dominant bullpen, and Andy Pettitte was the best pitcher on the staff winning 21 games as the Yankees reached the teams first fall classic since 1981.
Pettitte earned the game 1 start, but got lit up as the Yankees fell 12-1. He lasted just 2.1 innings, giving up 7 runs. In game 5 though, after a dramatic game 4 comeback that tied the series at 2 games apiece, Pettitte pitched one of the best games in Yankees post-season history lasting 8.1 innings giving up just 5 hits and no runs while striking out 4.
The Yankees won the game 1-0 to take a 3-2 series lead, setting the stage for the Yankees first title since 1978 with a game 6 victory.
Mariano Rivera would take over as the closer in 1997, and never look back, while Andy Pettitte became a stalwart in the rotation for 14 out of the next 17 years.
During game 4 of the 1998 World Series, Pettitte pitched 7.1 shutout innings as the Yankees won the World Series for the 2nd time in 3 years, and would go on to win the World Series in 1999 and 2000.
In Pettitte’s 8 post-season starts in 1999 and 2000, the Yankees would go 8-0, while slowly becoming the winningest pitcher in playoff history and developing his reputation as the ultimate stopper.
After the Yankees lost the first game of the 2000 ALDS to the A’s, many felt that New York would continue the teams poor play from September when the team badly limped into the playoffs. But Pettitte had other ideas in game 2 pitching 7.2 scoreless innings as the Yankees would win the game, the series, and the title.
The 2003 ALDS started the same way as the Yankees fell in game 1 and a game 2 loss would mean New York would be on the brink of elimination. But Pettitte once again rose to the occasion pitching 7 innings of one run ball while striking out 10 as the Yankees went on to win the series before falling to the Marlins in the fall classic.
Following the 2003 season, Pettitte left the Yankees to join the Houston Astros from 2004-2006, in one of the biggest blunders ever made by Brian Cashman. Pettitte wanted to stay with the Yankees, but Cashman let him test the free-agent market.
As he was about to sign a contract with the Astros, Cashman jumped in at the last minute, but it was too late. With Pettitte in the fold from 2004-2006, the Yankees would have been in a much better position to win additional championships.
He returned to the Bronx in 2007 and would come up huge in the 2009 World Series. In the two games started by Pettitte, the Yankees won both including a game-6 clincher that brought the World Series back to Yankee-land for the first time since 2000.
Pettitte remained in New York for the 2010 season, but retired prior to the 2011 season. He returned in 2012 and 2013, before finally showing his age and formally announcing his retirement just last week.
With Pettitte retiring for good, the Yankees will be losing a true warrior and a flat-out winner. If you were a team needing to win one game, you would feel pretty good about having Andy Pettitte as your starting pitcher that day.
He may not blow you away in that start, but he would find a way to get the job done and get you the win, which was something he did consistently for 18 years.
When Andy Pettitte walks off the mound for the final time tonight, it will not only mark the end of a great career, but also the end of a truly amazing run in sports history.