Pettitte eyes another playoff record
Yanks' Game 6 starter looking for fifth series-clinching win
NEW YORK -- With an American League pennant-winning victory Sunday at home against the Angels, Yankees starting pitcher Andy Pettitte could add another postseason individual record for most all-time series-clinching victories with five -- breaking a tie with Roger Clemens, Catfish Hunter and Dave Stewart.
In the process, he also would end a personal Game 6 hex.
Tied with John Smoltz as the all-time winningest pitcher in Major League Baseball postseason history, Pettitte is making his fourth career Game 6 start, and to date, he is 0-2 with a no-decision. The two losses proved costly and the no-decision wound up being a non-issue.
In 2001, the Yankees won those three unforgettable home games to take a 3-2 World Series lead over Arizona, and then the series moved back to Phoenix. It was all D-backs in a 15-2 rout, as Pettitte lasted just two innings, allowing six earned runs. The D-backs would win that subsequent Game 7 thriller.
The other two Game 6 starts were each in the 2003 postseason -- which marked the last time the Yankees got to the Fall Classic. Pettitte can get them back now.
In Game 6 of that classic AL Championship Series against the rival Red Sox, Pettitte had a no-decision. He went five innings, allowing eight hits, four earned runs, two walks while striking out five. The Yankees had a 6-4 lead when he left, adding the last run for him on Jorge Posada's solo shot in the bottom of the fifth. Jose Contreras took over for the sixth, and he and the bullpen broke down an inning later on the way to a 9-6 Boston triumph.
The Yankees, of course, overcame that no-decision a night later when Aaron Boone hit one into the night and gave the Bronx Bombers their 39th pennant.
In the World Series, Pettitte simply was outdueled by Florida's Josh Beckett, who was emerging onto the scene with a 2-0 clinching shutout. Pettitte went seven innings that night at Yankee Stadium, with six hits, two runs (one earned), three walks and seven strikeouts.
So out of those three Game 6 starts, one was a disaster on the mound and the other two, he might have won with a little more help.
On Sunday, the Yankees are counting on him breaking through.
"I think Andy's here for a reason," Posada said of his old friend and fellow postseason warrior. "He loves playing in the postseason, and you know Andy's been so good for us throughout the years, a big-game pitcher, and I know he's going to be ready for the game."
This will mark Pettitte's 11th start in a series-clinching game, whether won by the Yankees or by the opposition. Besides the four victories, he had a loss at Cleveland in the 1997 AL Division Series, a pair of no-decisions in 2000 (ALDS at A's and World Series at Mets), the loss in 2001 at Arizona, the no-decision and defeat in 2003. He got the win in the Yankees' 4-1 ALDS clincher at Minnesota on Oct. 11 and now is in position to be the clinch pitcher of record on Sunday.
Who knows? There could be a World Series-clinching start on the horizon the first week of November. But first, there is only one matter at hand.
Pettitte, 37, was asked after Saturday's rainout announcement what it might mean to pass Clemens, Hunter and Stewart.
"I mean, again, that stuff is great," Pettitte said. "I just feel so fortunate to have been able to play in this organization and been able to be on as many successful teams as we've put together here. So really, I just feel like I'm a byproduct of a lot of great teams, a lot of great players that have been surrounding me and have been helping me be able to do those things.
"So I'm just thankful that my body has held together and my elbow has felt better after the surgery and stuff like that. Other than that, I really haven't had a whole lot of other problems. So I'm just very thankful for that."
Pettitte said he is just glad to have the chance to break this hex, although unquestionably that personal issue would be the last thing to enter his mind. It's something for others to talk about.
"I just appreciate it," he said. "You learn to just appreciate the opportunity that you have and to be able to do it again with this club and how special it is with this franchise and these fans, you want to be successful and you want to get it done. I'll be prepared to hopefully give us a great start and a chance to win the ballgame."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.