10/25/2003 10:21 PM ET
Pettitte gives it his all in Game 6
Yankees left-hander pitches well in do-or-die situation
NEW YORK -- The familiar question was sprung on Andy Pettitte almost immediately after Josh Beckett recorded the last out of the 2003 World Series, and it wasn't about his Game 6 loss.
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
The question, the one he's been hearing for months, is a logical one: Will he be back in Yankee pinstripes in 2004?
Pettitte, who becomes a free agent this offseason, shut that question down almost as quickly as it was asked. In the wake of the Marlins' 2-0 win that allowed the National League Wild Card winners to dance in celebration on the Yankees' field, he had other things on his mind.
Pettitte said he felt sick because the Yankees didn't reach their goal and he didn't do his job in Game 6, although that was quite debatable by his teammates.
The veteran left-hander has stood up to all kinds of big-game pressure throughout his career and especially throughout this postseason, and a huge challenge was asked of him Saturday night.
Pettitte had to stave off elimination by outpitching Beckett, the 23-year-old right-hander who had become the hottest hurler in October.
He responded with a great game by most people's standards: seven innings, two runs, one of which was unearned, and seven strikeouts. A victory on most nights, but not when Beckett shut out the Yankees on five hits.
"Andy went out there and pitched his heart out," Bernie Williams said, summing up the opinions of practically every Yankee asked. "He couldn't pitch any better."
Pettitte disagreed, pointing to the pivotal fifth and sixth innings.
In the first four frames, Pettitte lived up to all the billing of a go-to pitcher.
Pettitte breezed through the Marlins, scattering a Pudge Rodriguez single in the first inning and a Mike Lowell double in the second but otherwise commanding every part of the strike zone.
He rung up Luis Castillo on strikes in the first, struck out two batters to finish off the second, then struck out Miguel Cabrera in the fourth.
While Beckett was busy setting down the Yankees in quick, decisive fashion, Pettitte held his own.
That is, until the fifth and sixth.
Pettitte threw only 49 pitches through the first four frames but uncorked 50 in the next two.
In the fifth, he struck out leadoff hitter Derrek Lee and got Juan Encarnacion on a groundout to third base, but after getting Alex Gonzalez down 0-and-2, Gonzalez fought off a few pitches before blooping a single to center.
Juan Pierre followed with a single to center before Castillo broke a slump with an RBI single to right that gave Florida a 1-0 lead.
After walking Rodriguez intentionally to load the bases, Pettitte worked the Stadium crowd into a frenzy by blowing away Cabrera for the third out.
But the momentum didn't carry over into the sixth inning, when a throwing error by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter put leadoff hitter Jeff Conine on base. Pettitte walked Lowell and then made his biggest mistake of the game.
Lee dropped a sacrifice bunt and Pettitte elected to get Lowell at second instead of nailing Conine at third.
That set up Encarnacion for a routine sacrifice fly to center, giving the Marlins a 2-0 lead that looked -- and sounded -- like a bigger margin in a quieted Stadium with Beckett still in control of the New York lineup.
"(Catcher) Jorge (Posada) said he was telling me to go to third, but I never heard him," Pettitte said. "I wasn't sure I could get him at third, but I knew I could get Lowell because I had plenty of time."
"The bottom line is that when D.J. made that error, it's my job to pick him up. And after the bunt, I'm facing one of the freest swingers in the National League. I've got to make a better pitch than the one I made."
If Pettitte sounded like he was being a little hard on himself, his manager, Joe Torre, put it into some perspective.
"Andy pitched great," Torre said. "Josh Beckett was unbelievably great. And you know, they certainly deserve to be world champs."
Beckett's effort on three days' rest seemed to overshadow every other rudiment of the game, a fact Pettitte cited, saying he felt like he had to be perfect.
"I knew that if I gave up a run or two runs, we'd be in trouble," Pettitte said. "But I still felt we'd pull off some late-inning magic like we always do. It just didn't happen."
And what if Pettitte's future with the New York Yankees just doesn't happen?
"I can't answer that," he said for about the 478th time.
"I just want to get home and get over this."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.