Because the Yankees had to burn their ace to win Game 5 of the ALDS, Andy Pettitte gets the Game 1 start in the ALCS against the Tigers. And because there is no off-day, the rest of the rotation after Pettitte is still a question mark.
Which makes Pettitte’s start tonight even bigger. But that’s why he came back, for big games in big series.
“Like I said a lot of times, I came back to hopefully help this club get into this position, to help this pitching staff, to help take some of the stress off the other starters, and hopefully be able to give us quality starts whenever I take the mound, and give us a chance to hopefully get deep into games and give us a chance to win,” Pettitte said after another champagne party. “So it’s nice to feel like I have been able to do that whenever I’ve been healthy and get out there. I’m so excited about the opportunity to be in this series, obviously, to move along.
“I couldn’t say I feel any more pressure. Look, we have to have a team effort. We have to have our starters throwing the ball well, or we’re not going to win this series probably. I feel like I am able to simplify it to that extent. I definitely need to give us a good start and get the series off to a good first game, that’s for sure.”
Pettitte had hardly thought about the Tigers at that point, because, well, he was ready to be available in the bullpen in the all-hands-on-deck elimination game.
“Obviously, knowing I was in the pen tonight maybe and just focusing on this game, (I’ve had) no time at al to think about it. Obviously you have (Miguel) Cabrera in there and (Prince) Fielder – great hitters. You just hope you can get out there and make quality pitches. Nothing different. You just try to make quality pitches.
“You know it’s going to be tough games. And for me hopefully I have good command of all my pitches, not walk any guys, and give us a chance to win, and hopefully give us a good outing.”
Pettitte was good in Game 2 of the ALDS (seven innings, three runs) though he was tagged with the loss. Indeed, all the Yankees starters were solid in the series, and their bullpen was fabulous, allowing just one run. Pettitte never had to go to the bullpen for Game 5 because CC Sabathia went the distance.
“Very impressed,” Pettitte said. “CC, you can’t say enough about what he has done. To be able to go on the road, it’s tough. Postseason is tough on the road, pitching in those games. And to do what he did, make the pitches that he did when he was in trouble in Baltimore, to get us into the ninth inning like he did. .. and tonight, just absolutely amazing.
“Everyone. Kuroda did an unbelievable job. Phil threw the ball great last night. I felt I was able to get us deep into the game and give us a chance to win. We have thrown the ball well in this series. The bullpen has been great. Runs were hard to come by in this first series and hopefully we can carry that over right into the next series.”
And, though he hadn’t thought a lot about Detroit, your mind doesn’t have to wander far to know where the danger lies. Cabrera, a righty, will be a huge challenge for the left-handed Pettitte.
“He is just a great hitter,” Pettitte said. “Obviously he doesn’t have a whole lot of holes. He’s got power to the opposite field, and he’s got pull power. So when you have got a guy like that, he’s tough to get out. When you have a guy that has the power that he does, to hit balls out, especially in Detroit, and right field (in) Detroit being a right-handed hitter, that is just special.
“And then what he has done this year, winning the Triple Crown with an average like that, it’s pretty remarkable to see what he has done. He will be a big key. Try to shut him down. I don’t know if you can shut him down, but try to keep him from doing too much damage in the series, and that’s key to us winning the series, that’s for sure.”
Associated Press photo