Astros fall again, Pettitte completes career
As another dreadful season has bottomed out in the last two weeks, the last-place Houston Astros have become experts at finding new ways to lose.
Saturday night was just another example of their futility.
Houston catcher Matt Pagnozzi accidentally spiked the ball while trying to throw to second on an attempted pickoff in the sixth inning to allow the go-ahead run to score in a 2-1 loss to the New York Yankees that extended the franchise-record losing streak to 14 games.
''I didn't have a grip and I was trying to stop my arm and what happened happened,'' Pagnozzi said. ''It's pretty tough, especially with the kind of skid we're on right now. Having it come down to being the go-ahead run that scored. Yeah, not something that you want to happen.''
Houston manager Bo Porter was frustrated by the play that contributed to his team's 110th loss this season.
''It's definitely a play where you would hope they make better decisions,'' Porter said. ''Obviously, it was a very costly play because it was a big error there and the man from third was able to score on that error. Again it's more understanding the game situation and allowing the decision to dictate itself.''
The loss came on a night when former Astros pitcher Andy Pettitte finished his career.
The 41-year-old left-hander pitched a five-hitter for his first complete game in seven years to lead the Yankees to the win.
Two days after Mariano Rivera made his finale in front of an emotional crowd at Yankee Stadium, Pettitte followed his teammate into retirement and left only Derek Jeter left from the Core Four who earned five World Series rings with the Yankees since 1996.
Chris Carter singled with two outs in the ninth, ending a string of 11 straight batters retired by Pettitte. Yankees manager Joe Girardi came to the mound, had a brief conversation with Pettitte, then returned to the dugout.
With the crowd on its feet and cameras flashing, J.D. Martinez hit a game-ending groundout to third baseman Eduardo Nunez, giving Pettitte his 26th complete game.
Pettitte, who lives in suburban Deer Park, lingered on the field as teammates hugged him - including Jeter, Rivera and Girardi, Pettitte's former catcher.
The Astros stood in front of their dugout, applauding, and fans chanted ''An-dy! An-dy!''
''It just couldn't end any better,'' Pettitte said.
The oldest starting pitcher in the major leagues, Pettitte finished this season 11-11 and never had a losing record in 18 major league seasons. He was 256-153 with a 3.85 ERA and 2,448 strikeouts during the regular season and excelled in October, where he compiled a record 19 postseason wins.
It was a week of nostalgia for the Yankees. Rivera, the 43-year-old career saves leader, was given an emotional home sendoff Thursday night and said Saturday afternoon that he wouldn't pitch during the season-ending series against the Astros.
''I told Mo I might finish the game off if you're not in the bullpen,'' Pettitte said.
He struck out five and walked two in a 115-pitch effort, allowing his only run on Carter's RBI groundout in the fourth. With a sharp slider and cutter, he kept the Astros to 0-for-11 with runners on base.
Pettitte said it was a difficult final week for him.
''It's been terrible because I know it's over,'' he said. ''It's a shame you get old.''
Numerous friends and family of Pettitte were on hand, including former Houston teammate Jeff Bagwell. The pair exchanged a hearty embrace before Pettitte took the mound. Making his 438th start for the Yankees, he tied Whitey Ford's team record.
NOTES: The Astros' 323 losses over three seasons are tied with the 1940-42 Philadelphia Phillies for fourth-most in big league history according to STATS, ahead of only the 1962-64 New York Mets (340), the 1963-65 Mets (332) and the 1915-17 Philadelphia Athletics (324). ... Houston starter Paul Clemens allowed two runs and five hits in 5 1-3 innings. ... Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez said Saturday that he didn't expect to play this weekend because of soreness in his legs.