New York City (AFP) – New York’s Mariano Rivera, Major League Baseball’s all-time career saves leaders, took the mound at Yankee Stadium for the final time Thursday in a 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay.
Evan Longoria knocked in three runs with a pair of singles for the Rays as they stayed one game ahead of Cleveland and two in front of Texas in the fight for the final American League playoff berths.
But the night belonged to Rivera, who made an emotional farewell in defeat, sharing hugs with teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte before walking off for the last time.
“I was bombarded with emotions,” Rivera said. “I knew that was the last time. Period.”
The 43-year-old right-hander walked off to the cheers of Yankee Stadium fans who chanted his name after the final moment on the mound with those who had been with him over a career that saw him win five World Series titles.
“I could feel him crying on me,” said pitcher Pettitte, whose final game before joining Rivera in retirement is now set for Saturday in Houston.
Rivera, whose 19-year career with the Yankees will close with three final games in Houston, entered in the eighth inning with one out. He retired all four batters he faced before being removed with two outs in the ninth so he could receive the standing ovation fans had waited through the entire defeat to give him.
Rivera stopped on his way to the Yankees dugout to acknowledge the Rays, who were also giving him a standing ovation, and the 48,675 fans.
After walking off in tears, Rivera embraced his teammates and coaches then collected himself and left the dugout one last time, stepping on the field for a last curtain call.
“It means the whole world to me,” Rivera said. “It was amazing. I definitely appreciate the fans for that.”
After the final out, Rivera returned to the mound one final time to scoop dirt from the mound he spent so many years on, dominating rival batters.
The Yankees, already eliminated from the playoff race, suffered their fourth loss in a row.