A recording of the late Sheppard’s introduction of “No. 42, Mariano Rivera, No. 42” greeted the opening of the bullpen door in the top of the eighth inning and “Enter Sandman” blared in the Bronx for the final time as the greatest relief pitcher of all time made his final appearance at Yankee Stadium.
Although Rivera may pitch a final time in the final series in Houston, doing so in his road grays against a long-ago eliminated club could not stand to improve upon the tribute Rivera received last night.
Removed with two outs in the 9th, Girardi delegated his pitching change to a pair of tenured veterans, Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter, longtime teammates who, alongside Mariano, quite literally grew up together through the ranks of this baseball organization. As they reached the mound, Rivera dissolved into tears on Pettitte’s shoulder, where he stayed buried for half a minute before the Captain told him, “Time to go.”
After the game’s conclusion, Rivera returned to the field, ascended the mound, and dug his right foot alongside the rubber once again, looking almost like he wanted to throw another pitch.
Instead, Rivera used his cleats to loosen the ground for a keepsake and walked off the mound a final time clutching a bit of clay, the last of his career.