11/01/09 2:49 AM EST
Pettitte grinds out 17th playoff victory
Veteran helps his own cause during fifth-inning rally
By Brittany Ghiroli / Special to MLB.com
"He grinded it out today," said Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher, who watched the end of Pettitte's postgame interview following the Yankees' 8-5 win in Game 3 of the World Series.
"He was a bulldog for us, and we really needed that start from him. He put us deep in the game, and he deserves a lot of credit," Swisher said. "He says he might not have had his good stuff, but either way he battled hard out there [Saturday night] and put us in a good position."
By most accounts, Pettitte's slow and deliberate rhythm backfired on him in the first two innings. The veteran lefty admitted he might have been overamped waiting out the game's 80-minute rain delay, and from catcher Jorge Posada's view, Pettitte wasn't getting on top of his fastball, forcing his ball up in the zone.
The effects were apparent, as Pettitte couldn't get ahead in the count and threw 51 pitches in the first two innings, allowing three runs on four hits and putting the Yankees in an early hole.
"It was tough," Pettitte said of his night on the hill. "I'm not going to lie to you, I couldn't put the ball where I wanted to. I wasn't getting it down and away consistently like I wanted to, and I wasn't able to throw my curveball for strikes. It was an absolute grind."
And grind he did, churning out another vintage Pettitte start. The veteran lefty, who often says his stuff is not as electric as the other Yankees starters, maneuvered his way through a devastating Phillies lineup, retiring nine of the next 10 batters he faced after the first two innings. Pettitte allowed just one hit -- Jayson Werth's second solo homer -- after the second inning and finished his night with back-to-back strikeouts and a flyout to right field.
|A. Pettitte||NYY||'09 Gm 3||Single|
|D. Matsuzaka||BOS||'07 Gm 3||Single *|
|C. Ogea||CLE||'97 Gm 6||Single *|
|D. Cone||TOR||'92 Gm 2||Single|
|M. Moore||OAK||'89 Gm 7||Double *|
|M. Boddicker||BAL||'83 Gm 3||Sac fly|
|T. Stoddard||BAL||'79 Gm 4||Single|
|K. Holtzman||OAK||'74 Gm 4||Home run|
But one of Pettitte's most memorable moments came at the plate, causing some good-natured ribbing in the Yankees' clubhouse and sparking a three-run rally.
With one out in the fifth and the Yankees trailing the Phillies by a run, Pettitte singled on the first pitch he saw from Cole Hamels, sending the curveball into center field to score Swisher from second base. Swisher doubled to open the frame and was followed Melky Cabrera, who went down swinging.
For Pettitte, it was his first hit of this year's postseason and his first career World Series RBI, a fact not lost on several Yankees position players.
"He got an RBI in the World Series before me," said Johnny Damon, who doubled in Pettitte and Derek Jeter for the inning's final two runs.
It was the first World Series RBI for a Yankees pitcher since Jim Bouton on Oct. 14, 1964, in Game 6 vs. St. Louis. The last RBI by an American League pitcher in the World Series was by Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka, who delivered a two-run single in the third inning of 2007's Game 3.
Pettitte grounded out in his first at-bat in the third inning and entered Saturday's game 1-for-5 this year, and a career 2-for-16 in the postseason.
"I was joking with a few of the guys, 'I've got a few World Series knocks now,' and now I've got an RBI," Pettitte said. "So, I'm pretty happy about that."
"What can you say? He pitched, he hit," Jeter said. "He did everything."
Well, almost everything.
Pettitte, who is not known for being fleet-footed, was nearly passed on the basepaths by Jeter, who was also trying to score on Damon's double.
"I could have caught him," said Jeter, smiling. "But it would have been embarrassing."
Pettitte also made light of the situation, admitting that he has "has no wheels at all."
"I was gassed running around the bases," Pettitte said. "Then the next inning I had to cover first, and that gassed my legs even more. It was a rough night for me."
But when the dust finally settled, Pettitte found himself with his third postseason win of 2009 and 17th career playoff victory, extending his own record.
Pettitte's hit, coupled with Hamels' bunt single in the first inning, marked Saturday's Game 3 as the first time both starting pitchers got a hit in a World Series game since Game 4 of last year's Fall Classic. Tampa Bay's Andy Sonnanstine and Philadelphia's Joe Blanton achieved the feat, also at Citizens Bank Park.
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.