Mariano Rivera said goodbye to Yankee Stadium with hugs, tears and cheers.
Baseball’s most acclaimed relief pitcher made an emotional exit in his final appearance in the Yankees’ home pinstripes, when captain Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte came to the mound to remove him with two outs in the ninth inning of a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.
“It’s time to go,” Jeter appeared to tell Rivera.
Tampa Bay won its seventh straight and leads the AL wild-card race.
During four minutes of thunderous chanting from the sellout crowd 48,675, an overcome Rivera sobbed as he buried his head on the right shoulder of Pettitte, who also is retiring when the season ends Sunday. Pettitte gave Rivera a 30-second hug, and Jeter followed with a 15-second embrace.
Rivera, who turns 44 in November, said he had trouble controlling himself on the mound during the ninth inning for the first time since he left Panama and embarked on a professional baseball career in 1990.
“I was bombarded with emotions and feeling that I couldn’t describe,” he said after the game, flanked by his wife and three sons. “Everything hit at that time. I knew that was the last time. Period. I never felt like that before.”
It was an extraordinary sight in a sport where a manager almost always goes to the mound to make a pitching change. Yankees manager Joe Girardi checked with the umpires to make certain Jeter, who is on the disabled list, could take part.
"I was so thankful they came out," Rivera said after the game.
Rivera, who retired four straight batters, wiped his eyes with both arms as he walked off and blew a kiss to the first row behind the Yankees dugout. He hugged a tearful Girardi in the dugout, grabbed a towel to dab his own tears, and came out again and doffed his cap to the crowd. All the while, the Rays remained in their dugout applauding.
Throughout the stands, fans blinked back tears.
When Rivera came off, Pettitte came out for his own curtain call as the Rays waited. After the last out, Rivera remained on the bench for a moment as "New York, New York" played.
The 43-year-old Rivera then took a final walk to the mound, where he stood, rubbed his feet on the rubber, kneeled and gathered dirt as a keepsake.
Rivera had entered with one out and two on in the eighth to a recorded introduction by Bob Sheppard, the longtime Yankees public address announcer who died three years ago.
Fans stood, applauded and chanted his name as he jogged in from the bullpen to Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and continued for two minutes as he took his warmups. The entire Tampa Bay bench emptied and stood on the dirt warning track in front of the dugout and applauded.
Fans remained on their feet, chanting his name as he got two quick outs on six pitches. In his first appearance since the Yankees retired his No. 42 during a 50-minute ceremony Sunday, Rivera retired Delmon Young on a groundout and Sam Fuld on a comebacker.
He lingered on the dugout bench when the eighth inning ended and took in the whole stadium scene as he teammates ran onto the field. Rivera jogged out last and was given another standing ovation. With the crowd shouting at a postseason level, he retired Jose Lobaton on a comebacker and Yunel Escobar on a popup to second before the famous, final scene.
The Yankees, eliminated from playoff contention, finish the season with three games in Houston.
The oldest player in the major leagues, Rivera record 314 of his record 652 saves at home during a 19-year big league career, and 18 of his record 42 postseason saves were at the old and new Yankee Stadium.
Rivera helped the Yankees to five World Series titles, getting the final out in four of them.
Tampa Bay lowered to two its magic number over Texas for clinching an AL wild-card berth. The Rays swept this three-game series, outscoring the Yankees 19-3.
Alex Cobb (11-3) took a one-hit shutout into the eighth, retiring 15 in a row between walks to Curtis Granderson in the second and Robinson Cano in the seventh. He wound up allowing three hits in seven innings-plus.
Evan Longoria hit an RBI single in the fourth against Ivan Nova (9-6) and a two-run single off Dellin Betances in the eighth. Young hit a long solo homer to left-center in the sixth.
New York has lost nine of 12, including four in a row, and at 82-77 will have its fewest wins in a non-shortened season since