HOUSTON -- Mariano Rivera was on the closing end for 72 of Andy Pettitte's victories, a dynamic duo that established a Major League record for win-save combinations. This time, Rivera was thrilled to watch Pettitte finish off the ninth inning all by himself.
"I was pulling for him, knowing he was there alone," Rivera said after the Yankees' 2-1 win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park. "That was his game. We just had to cheer for him. That's what we did. That's what I did."
Rivera announced before Saturday's game that he would not pitch during this series against the Astros, thus allowing Thursday's emotional farewell at Yankee Stadium to stand as his final big league appearance.
The all-time saves leader thought it was incredibly appropriate that Pettitte was able to score his own perfect exit, polishing off his first complete game in seven years by holding the Astros to five hits in front of dozens of friends and family members.
"I'm proud of him. He's the best," Rivera said. "That's how God works; he gave him his last game being at home, threw a complete game, he did it alone with the Lord. Amazing. I'm so happy for him. He deserved that.
"... Going out on your own terms is the best. I think he did the right thing."
Yankees captain Derek Jeter joked that Pettitte would probably need to pay a visit to noted elbow surgeon Dr. James Andrews after throwing 116 pitches at age 41, but Jeter said that he was not surprised Pettitte was able to summon the energy to empty the tank one last time.
"He did an awesome job, but what would you expect otherwise?" Jeter said. "He's been pitching big games his entire career. I know this one meant a lot to him; he wanted to have a good outing his last time out."
Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia said that the effort showed that Pettitte is "a champion."
"That was amazing," Sabathia said. "[Bullpen coach Mike] Harkey told him he's been holding out on us. Just to watch him grind that out, pitch the way he pitched, it was unbelievable. I'm so proud of him. That's a great way to go out."
Even for the opponents, it has been special to be involved in the celebrations. The Astros' Brandon Laird, a former Yankee, was among the group of Houston players who came on the field to applaud Pettitte's effort after the ninth inning.
"It gave me chills," Laird said. "It was a special day for him and I'm glad I was a part of it. He was outstanding."
Sabathia noted that it is difficult to put into words what the Yankees' last week has been like.
"These are generational players, guys you don't find every day," Sabathia said. "They're leaving the game, so it's tough. I wish them the best and I'm happy for them, but it's been very emotional."
Jeter said that it has been simultaneously fun and sad to watch Pettitte and Rivera march off into the sunset together, but the captain is happy that his longtime teammates are getting to go out on their own terms.
"These are guys I'm going to miss," Jeter said. "I'm happy they've gotten all the accolades they deserve and the appreciation from the fans."