Big games bring out the best in Pettitte
Game 3 starter looking to add to his postseason records
ANAHEIM -- Imagine being the Angels at this point, losing two consecutive games to the Yankees and then returning home to face a man who is on the verge of recording more postseason victories than anyone in history.
"Andy Pettitte, man, look at his record," Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said. "It's pretty impressive in the postseason. We have to be ready to play. It doesn't get easier, huh?"
Pettitte is not, in short, the type of pitcher the Angels want to face heading into what will be an all-but-must-win Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday evening. With his AL Division Series-clinching win over the Twins last weekend in Minnesota, Pettitte moved into a tie with John Smoltz for the most playoff victories in Major League history.
Next up on his to-do list is the Angels.
"I feel fortunate to have been able to have played as long as I have," Pettitte said of his record, "and, obviously, to be able to have played on as many great teams as I've been able to play on, and have the opportunity to do that."
Pettitte also moved into first place on baseball's all-time postseason games and innings lists, and third on the game's all-time strikeout list -- not that he's counting. More than records, he is after rings, and a victory on Monday would put him on the verge of yet another World Series berth.
|2009 REGULAR SEASON|
|Overall||14-8, 32 GS, 4.16 ERA, 76 BBs, 148 Ks||6-8, 33 GS, 3.75 ERA, 66 BBs, 174 Ks|
|Key stat||218 1/3 career postseason innings pitched||7.4 Ks/9 IP this year|
|Career||15-9, 36 GS, 3.89 ERA, 61 BBs, 146 Ks||2-1, 3 G (2 GS), 1.88 ERA, 6 BBs, 15 Ks|
|AT ANGEL STADIUM|
|2009||0-2, 2 GS, 7.84 ERA, 8 BBs, 6 Ks||9-3, 17 GS, 2.90 ERA, 27 BBs, 99 Ks|
|Career||6-7,16 GS, 4.19 ERA, 32 BBs, 79 Ks||27-12, 53 GS, 3.27 ERA, 82 BBs, 270 Ks|
|AGAINST THIS OPPONENT|
|2009 regular season||0-2, 2 GS, 7.88 ERA, 8 BBs, 6 Ks||1-1, 3 GS, 5.59 ERA, 9 BBs, 13 Ks|
|Career||12-10, 45 GS, 4.38 ERA, 87 BBs, 214 Ks||4-2,7 GS, 4.88 ERA, 18 BBs, 34 Ks|
|Loves to face||Kendry Morales, 0-for-5, 1 K||Derek Jeter, 2-for-17, 2 Ks|
|Hates to face||Erick Aybar, 7-for-16, 2 RBIs||Alex Rodriguez 5-for-15, 4 HRs|
|Why he'll win||Postseason experience||Pitches well at home|
|Pitcher beware||Has struggled against Angels in his career||Allowed 26 homers this year|
|Bottom line||Can he add to postseason legacy?||Can he continue to pitch well in the postseason?|
"We've got to set the tone," he said of the Yankees' starting pitching. "We know what's expected out of us. We know we're in a good place right now, man. We all talk about what we need to do and what we want to do. We've been able to go out there and effectively do it."
That's precisely what Pettitte did in Game 3 of the ALDS, firing 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball against the Twins and needing only 81 pitches to do it.
Since that game, the Yankees have spoken repeatedly of Pettitte's uncanny knack for saving his best stuff for the playoffs -- something he has seemingly done since his first postseason appearance, in 1996.
"He seems to always bear down in big games," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "He's one guy that we like to see on the mound in those big games. It doesn't mean he's always going to be successful, but you know he's not going to be overwhelmed in any situation. We have a lot of confidence in him when he's on the mound."
Pettitte's Game 3 start, though, may be more of a challenge. Unlike the Twins, who Pettitte had tamed consistently during the regular season, the Angels have given him major problems. In three starts against them this season, Pettitte was 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA. The Angels were the only team to beat the left-hander twice this year, and the only team to score more than 13 earned runs against him.
The Angels on Mike Scioscia's playoff roster have combined to tag Pettitte for a career .307 average, though he has managed to keep them in the ballpark -- just two home runs over the span of 215 lifetime at-bats.
How that plays at Angel Stadium, where Pettitte has a career 4.19 ERA, remains to be seen. But Pettitte has been significantly better on the road -- a 9-4 record and 3.56 ERA this year, including his ALDS start -- than at home, where he finished 6-4 with a 4.59 mark during the regular season.
Throughout Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS, Pettitte spent his time watching how CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett were able to navigate through Scioscia's lineup with minimal damage. And certainly Pettitte does not want to be the first Yankees starter to allow more than two runs in a postseason game this October.
"Andy knows exactly what to do," outfielder Johnny Damon said. "He's always going to keep you in the ballgame. He's going to keep it close, so you always have that chance to win."
And as the Yankees have demonstrated time and again this postseason, all they need is a chance. Give them a crack, and they'll take a whole lot more. Which is why they're plenty confident with Pettitte on the mound for Game 3.
"We're all in this together," Pettitte said. "Nobody has got to put the weight of the world on their shoulders."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.