It's Pettitte, on short rest, with long history
Decade after '98 Fall Classic, lefty can clinch another Series
NEW YORK -- The conversation went something like this: Joe Girardi, manager of the Yankees, approached Andy Pettitte on Tuesday and asked, "How do you feel?"
So it came to be that Pettitte will start Wednesday's World Series Game 6 for the Yankees, pitching on short rest for the first time in more than two years.
"Man, I don't even remember the last time I went on three days' rest," Pettitte said.
It was back on Sept. 30, 2006, when Pettitte, then with the Astros, struck out seven to temporarily preserve his team's playoff hopes. And the Yankees hope his Wednesday start will look something like that.
- 2009 Regular Season
- Overall: 9 GS, 5-1, 3.63 ERA, 37 K, 8 BB.
- Overall: 32 GS, 14-8, 4.16 ERA, 148 K, 76 BB.
- Key stat: Allowed 7 HRs in 44 2/3 IP.
- Key stat: 4-6 with a 4.15 ERA in 14 GS on short rest.
- 2009: 2 GS, 0-1, 2.08 ERA.
Career: 15 G, 13 GS, 6-3, 3.22 ERA.
- 2009: 4 GS, 3-0, 3.24 ERA. Career: 39 GS, 17-9, 3.88 ERA.
- At YANKEE STADIUM
- 2009: 1 GS, 0-1, 4.50 ERA. Career: 20 G, 18 GS, 8-6, 3.38 ERA.
- 2009: 16 GS, 6-4, 4.59 ERA. Career: 205 G, 202 GS, 109-50, 3.78 ERA.
- Against this opponent
- 2009: No starts. Career: 39 G, 38 GS, 12-14, 3.43 ERA.
- 2009: 1 GS, 0-0, 5.14 ERA. Career: 8 GS, 3-2, 3.97 ERA.
- Loves to face.: Robinson Cano, 0-for-15.
Hates to face: Alex Rodriguez, 16-for-58, HR.
- Loves to face: Ryan Howard, 1-for-12. Hates to face: Carlos Ruiz, 2-for-4.
- Game breakdown
- Why he'll win: Big-game pitcher.
- Why he'll win: Bigger game pitcher.
- Pitcher beware: Struggles with Yankees in playoffs.
- Pitcher beware: Struggles at home this season.
- Bottom line: Can he keep Yanks in the yard?
- Bottom line: Another clincher?
Though Pettitte has had some success starting on three days' rest throughout his career, going 4-6 with a 4.15 ERA in 14 career starts on three days' rest, and 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA on short rest in the playoffs, he has not pitched on any sort of limited rest over the past two seasons.
Lately, he has done quite the opposite, starting eight straight games on extra rest, including all four of his playoff assignments -- in part a recognition of the fact that he is now 37 years old.
Whether that extra rest will help him stay strong on Wednesday, or hurt him by stunting his routine, remains to be seen. All the Yankees know is that they will be proceeding with one of the most successful postseason performers of all-time.
"Physically, for me, it obviously is a little concern, just seeing how my body is going to feel on that short rest," Pettitte said. "But again, you prepare for this. I've been resting the last few days, and I feel like I've had the time off that I need, and mentally I'll be able to get in the place I need to. I mean, I'm hoping for that."
This postseason, Pettitte is 3-0, and his 17 postseason wins are more than any other pitcher in Major League history. But even he has pitched in few games as critical as this one.
Due to the Phillies' Game 5 win over the Yankees, Pettitte will be charged with the task of bringing home a World Series title for the Yankees in Game 6 in New York. The man with more postseason series-clinching victories than anyone in history, including 1998 World Series Game 4 vs. San Diego, will need to add one more of them to his resume.
"He's a big-game pitcher," said outfielder Jerry Hairston, Jr., who may earn his second World Series start due to his career success off Pettitte's counterpart, Pedro Martinez. "He's the winningest pitcher in the postseason, so we're very confident with Andy on the mound."
Hairston noted that in his Game 3 victory, Pettitte managed to grow stronger as the game progressed despite operating without command of his cut fastball -- one of his signature pitches. Rather than panic, Pettitte simply found other ways to navigate through perhaps the National League's most dangerous lineup.
"That's the experience factor," Hairston said.
And his experience closing out postseason series is greater than that of anyone else in Major League history. Already this autumn, Pettitte has closed out the Twins and Angels in the American League Division Series and AL Championship Series, respectively. The latter win moved him past Catfish Hunter, Dave Stewart and Roger Clemens for the most clinching wins in playoff history, with five, also vaulting him ahead of John Smoltz for the most postseason victories.
Afterward, Pettitte spoke about the honor of keeping such company -- but the ultimate frivolity of such statistics compared to team victories.
Pettitte, though, has succeeded in that department as well, with the Yankees winning three of the four games he has started this postseason.
"I think he's been this way all year long," outfielder Nick Swisher said. "It seems like every time he takes the mound, you're going to get 150 percent of what he's got. He's been around this game for a while. He knows how to pitch. He knows his strengths, and he's done a tremendous job for us."
|Art Nehf||1921-22||NY Giants|
|Wilcy Moore||1927, '32||Yankees|
|Vic Raschi||1949, '51||Yankees|
|Sandy Koufax||1963, '65||Dodgers|
|Bob Gibson||1964, '67||Cardinals|
|Catfish Hunter||1973, '78||A's, Yankees|
|Jimmy Key||1992, '96||Blue Jays, Yankees|
This postseason has been no exception. Pettitte's playoff victories have come more from his own prowess than from any sort of stout offensive support. His ALDS clincher against the Twins was one of the finest games he has pitched all season, and his World Series Game 3 win over the Phillies was impressive, considering the Yankees had their bullpen stirring in the second inning.
"I just couldn't get the ball where I wanted it to go," Pettitte said. "Mechanically, I felt a little bit off, just a click off. My release point didn't feel great. It was just a battle to get the ball in and out and move it around like I wanted to."
Critics may point to the fact that Pettitte was nothing more than mediocre at Yankee Stadium in the regular season, posting a 6-4 record and 4.59 ERA at his new home. But in his one October start there, the left-hander struck out six Angels and allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings.
That is about what the Yankees have come to expect from Pettitte in postseason play -- somewhere between six and seven innings, and one and three runs. They'll take it.
"I think he will get tired a little sooner," catcher Jorge Posada said, noting the short rest. "But we want six innings out of him, and then go to work with the rest of the guys in the bullpen."
A start like that would keep the Yankees squarely in the game, and directly on track to bring home their 27th World Series title.
"What an opportunity," Pettitte said. "That's really the only way you can look at it. To be able to hopefully pitch the game that will bring a 27th world championship to this organization and this city, it's what we set out to do. I just feel very fortunate to have this opportunity, be on this team with a great group of guys, and hope I can throw a great game for us tomorrow to give us a chance to be able to win another championship."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.