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Andy Pettitte Does It Again - And Five Other Notes From Playoff Baseball

October 8, 2010 - John Whittaker
I've been watching Andy Pettitte pitch since I was 18 years old.

Of his roughly 520 career starts, I'd say I've seen at least 350 on TV. And, honestly, I don't understand the fuss about his start last night in the ALDS. Except for going one inning more than I thought he would, I told you yesterday how tonight would turn out - I said 6 innings, 2 runs. He threw 7 innings instead of 6, made a bunch of key pitches, kept the Yankees in the game and exceeded everybody's expectations.

Honestly, it was a typical Andy Pettitte start that exemplifies why he's my favorite Yankees starter to watch pitch. He won't light up the radar gun, but he hits his spots with his fastball, has a slider that he can throw for strikes or get you to swing over when he's got two strikes, has the cut fastball that is just different enough from his 4-seam fastball that hitters can't center either, and he can throw that backdoor curveball when you're expecting the fastball.

Last night was typical in another respect, too.

Pettitte is a slow starter. In most of his games, he gets knocked around a little early — just like last night. Pettitte is the type of pitcher who, if he's not hitting his spots early or doesn't have a good feel early, will give up some runs. Last night, he limited the damage to no runs in the first inning, 1 in the second inning and then started mowing down Twinkies like a fat kid in a lunch line.

"Well, I think Andy, when he gets in big situations, knows how to handle it," Joe Girardi said last night in his post-game press conference. "He's not going to try to make the perfect pitch. He's going to stay aggressive and just try to do what he does. And I think a lot of that is just from experience. He's done this so many times."

The last six words are the key ones — he's done this so many times.

Give me Sabathia and Pettitte against any other team's top two starters and I feel pretty confident in my team. Sabathia is a horse, and a guy like Pettitte doesn't win 259 games (including the postseason) in the major leagues by accident.

Five other thoughts from Thursday's postseason action:

1. I understand why James Shields started Game 2 against Texas. Even though he's been the Javier Vazquez that nobody sees because he pitches in front of 35 people every start, Joe Maddon had no other options. Tampa Bay has gotten by with smoke and mirrors all season, and now somebody's little dog has finally pulled the curtain back to reveal that the great and powerful Oz is nothing more than a little midget with a funny moustache. Shields was Maddon's best option to get back into the series, but that doesn't mean it was a good one. Tampa's cooked.

2. Well, I was wrong about Tim Lincecum. Here is some guy in Western New York who has never thrown a major league pitch in his life questioning Lincecum, and Lincecum responds with 14 strikeouts in a dominating outing against the Braves. I will say, though, that the Braves aren't exactly the Yankees offensively. They aren't even the Tampa Bay Rays offensively. Nice start, kid, but I want to see it against a major league lineup, not that AAA group the Braves are throwing out there. I guess that wasn't much of an apology, was it? Ask my wife - I'm horrible at apologies.

3. I was really tempted to write about Lance Berkman's night at the top of this post, but I think mentioning it here will work. Since coming back from an injury last month, Berkman has really resembled his old self. He hadn't been hitting for much power, but the ball was coming off his bat much more crisply. Is it any surprise that Andy Pettitte would have convinced Berkman to come over in a trade from Houston — Andy has seen what Berkman was capable of and knew he could help the Yankees. At this point, I trust Andy Pettitte on pretty much anything - including his opinion on whether Berkman has anything left in the tank.

"I wasn't shocked because again, and again, I have been telling everybody in the clubhouse, it is like, this guy can hit the ball so far to the opposite field, he has more power opposite probably than anybody I ever played with and it hasn't clicked for him for the last two months," Pettitte told reporters last night after Game 2. "And he literally told me he kind of made an adjustment in his stance, him and (Kevin) Long the other day, and he said he was launching balls in BP yesterday. And he said he felt unbelievable up there and felt like he was going to be able to drive the ball the other way. And I mean, then he goes out and hits a couple of balls (opposite field) like he did tonight. It is amazing if you can find a little something to get you right. I am just so happy for him. He has been extremely frustrated, feeling like he hasn't contributed like he feels like he should."

Have we found the Yankees next super scout?

4. I don't want to hear about the missed third strike before Berkman's RBI double last night. Hunter Wendlestedt wasn't giving either pitcher that pitch all night. For Carl Pavano — of all people — to expect that he would get that call in that spot is bullschtein. Both pitchers got a little leeway on the outside corner to lefthanders and inside to righthanders, and got nothing and liked it inside to lefthanders and outside to righthanders. That's the pattern. Berkman knew he would get that pitch — which explains why he let it go. Pettitte didn't get a similar pitch in the second inning against Jason Kubel (who, by the way, looks exactly like Turtle from Entourage) and followed it up with a pitch to help get out of a tight spot. Make pitches, don't whine, Carl. Why don't you go hurt your butt muscle again and miss an entire season. Go borrow Javier Vazquez' testicles for your next start. God, I hate that guy. And, just as a disclaimer, the over/under on Javier Vazquez jokes this postseason is about 373.5 - and yes, I have a lot more where that came from.

5. I'm not against replay, though. The stolen base by Buster Posey in the Giants-Braves game was a travesty. Posey was out by a foot — and that's not an exaggeration. He was seriously out by a foot. I'm sorry, but something does need to be done about those type of calls. Replay can't cure balls and strikes, but as long as umpires are consistent with those I'll live with it. But, missing a stolen base like that is not acceptable. By the way, I caught that on TBS last night, and how does the crew calling the game not mention that the umps blew the call. I watched for 20 minutes after the stolen base, before I fell asleep, and they made no mention of the fact that Posey was out. Can we have replay for announcing crews, too? Even Michael Kay would have talked about that bad a blown call - and probably would have at least mentioned it if it helped the Yankees.

 
 

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Should it shock anyone anymore when Andy Pettitte throws a good game? I wouldn't be surprised to see him retire, come to Old-Timers' Day and throw three innings of shutout baseball. He's the man.