Posts Tagged ‘Pettitte’

One day after blowing a five run lead in the final three innings, Ron Washington vowed that if his team was presented with the same opportunity again, they would not let it get away. Sure enough, by the time the seventh inning rolled around, the Rangers had built another five run lead, and this time proved their manager prophetic.

I would like to be in the same position again and see what happens. I would like to get in the position of just having to get six more outs, and next time, we’ll probably get it done. We didn’t get it done last night, and we all take credit for that.” – Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, courtesy of LoHud Yankees Blog

Phil Hughes walks dejectedly back to the dugout after being lifted in the fifth inning (Photo: Getty Images)

It’s easy to see why Washington would relish the opportunity to be in the same situation, but the actions of Joe Girardi made it seem as if he too was eager for a reprise. What else would explain why Girardi allowed Phil Hughes to give up seven run and 10 hits over four-plus ineffective innings, especially coming one night after he lifted his veteran ace after the fourth inning?

Hughes’ afternoon actually started out quite impressive, as the young righty struck out the side in the first inning. In that frame, the Rangers did push one run across the plate, thanks to a leadoff infield single and three stolen bases, two of which came when Jorge Posada mistakenly threw to second base on an obvious double steal. Ironically, Josh Hamilton, who was running from first, wound up advancing too far before stopping, but instead of tagging him to thwart the play, Robinson Cano tried to nail Elvis Andrus at the plate.

From the onset, the right handers in the Rangers’ lineup seemed intent on taking Phil Hughes to the opposite field, but for some reason both he and Posada never adjusted. Over the next three-plus innings, six of the nine Rangers’ hits were struck by righties taking an outside fastball or cutter to right field. What’s more, five of those hits went for extra bases. If every Yankee fan didn’t know that Nick Swisher’s number was 33, they should now.

Once again, despite being down 5-0 in the third inning, the Yankees seemed to be very much in the ballgame, especially considering that Rangers’ starter Colby Lewis was in and out of trouble in the second and third. The Yankees finally broke through for a run in the fourth when Lance Berkman singled home Cano, who had doubled to lead off the inning, but the inning came to a sudden close when Berkman went too far past first and was tagged out in a rundown. Nonetheless, the seeds of another comeback seemed as if they had been planted.  

Instead of cutting his losses as he did with Sabathia in game one, Girardi allowed the inexperienced Hughes to take the mound in the fifth, despite the lack of any sign that he had adjusted to the Rangers’ game plan. Two runs later, the deficit was now at 7-1, and any chance at an encore was abated.

The Yankees last gasp came in the sixth inning, when the hot hitting Robinson Cano hit a 430-plus foot homerun deep into the right field upper deck. Otherwise, the Yankees failed to put much pressure on the same Texas bullpen that coughed up yesterday’s lead.

Coming into the game, the spotlight was on the Rangers’ ability to bounce back from a historic collapse, but they answered the questions with flying colors. Now, the doubts surround the Yankees, whose starting rotation and middle of the lineup have both struggled over the first two games. If not for the managerial gaffes of Washington in game one, the Yankees could be looking at Cliff Lee down two games to none. Even at 1-1, the specter of Lee in game three has shifted the burden over to the Yankees, especially on the heels of Hughes’ disastrous start.

Because of the decision to go with Phil Hughes in game 2, the Yankees can no longer use Sabathia for three games and Andy Pettitte for two games on full rest. Considering that the Rangers have had more success against righties (.772 OPS vs. .718 versus lefties), that seemed like an optimal configuration. Instead, the Yankees are now in a position where they will have to beat Lee in at least one game and still get a win from AJ Burnett. Although it’s impossible to know how Pettitte would have pitched had he started game 2, the turning point of this series could wind up being the fact that he wasn’t given the opportunity.

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Heading into the ALDS, the biggest question hanging over the Yankees was the health of Andy Pettitte. Last night, the  veteran lefty allayed those concerns.

Andy Pettitte answered all the questions with his game two performance (Photo: Getty Images).

Over the first two innings, Pettitte’s command was a little shaky, particularly in the second when he loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. At that point, however, Pettitte did what he does best…he limited the damage to a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia.

The Yankees entered the game with seven consecutive playoff victories against the Twins, all of the comeback variety. So, falling behind by one run in the second was hardly a reason for panic. Of more concern were the early returns from Carl Pavano, who limited the Yankees to one base hit over the first three innings. Aided by Hunter Wendlestedt’s generous strike zone, which seemed to include six inches off the plate to lefties (of which the Yankees lineup featured seven), Pavano pounded the strike zone early and then forced the batters to be aggressive later in the count. By the fourth inning, however, the Yankees’ game plan changed.

Curtis Granderson started the fourth inning with a leadoff double, his first of three hits, on a 2-0 pitch. Following the hit, the entire Yankees lineup went into attack mode. Pavano needed only six pitches to get through the next four batters, but was lucky to do so as all of them hit the ball hard. Singles by Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano, which came sandwiched around an Arod sac fly, helped plate the tying run, but when Nick Swisher rapped into a 1-6-3 double play, Pavano avoided further damage.

The Yankees eventually took the lead in the fifth inning when Pavano was felled by another 2-0 pitch. This time, Lance Berkman lined the offering over the left center field wall for only his second home run in a Yankees’ uniform. In his two months with the team, Berkman had desperately been in search of his first Yankee moment, but it never came. He finally found it with his initial post season swing.

While the Yankees were busy solving Pavano, Pettitte shifted into another gear. All of a sudden, the veteran lefty looked as if he was in midseason form, spotting his fastball, pounding his cutter and dropping curves into the zone at will. At one point, Pettitte retired 12 batters in a row, but when the string was broken, it was done in a big way. With one out in the sixth, Pettitte fell behind Orlando Hudson on a first pitch curve that seemed to dissect the plate. After not getting the call, Pettitte decided to go with the same pitch, but this time Hudson was waiting for it. While the Twins’ second baseman rounded the bases on his game tying blast, Pettitte could seen mouthing “stupid pitch”, while Jorge Posada walked toward the mound patting his chest as if to say “my bad”. Despite the frustration, Pettitte rebounded to retire the dangerous Joe Mauer and then induced a weak grounder from Jim Thome after Delmon Young’s triple that eluded the running try of Granderson.

As they have often done against the Twins in October, the Yankees immediately recaptured the lead by scoring in the latter third in the game. The top of the seventh began with a walk to Posada, but the focal point of the inning was the next at bat by Berkman. After falling behind 1-2, Berkman took a pitch that crossed the inside part of the plate, but received the benefit of a favorable call. Berkman then took advantage of his second life by lining the next pitch over Denard Span’s head in centerfield, plating Posada and giving the Yankees another lead. The Twins were infuriated by the turn of events and manager Ron Gardenhire was eventually ejected for arguing balls and strikes later in the inning. However, lost amid the outcry was the fact that the second pitch in the bat was called a strike despite being well off the plate. In other words, the count was exactly as it should have been, even if it took two missed calls to get there.

The Yankees eventually added an additional run in the seventh and ninth on RBI singles by Jeter and Granderson, respectively, but the extra insurance ultimately proved to be unnecessary. After a 27-minute top of the seventh, Pettitte polished of his effort with a quick 1-2-3 inning in the bottom half. Then, in the eighth, Kerry Wood upped the ante by blowing away the three batters he faced in the bottom of the eighth. Finally, Mariano Rivera put a cap on the evening by earning his 41st post season save and sending the Yankees back to the Bronx needing only one victory to advance to the ALCS.

Players with a HR in First Post Season Game with Yankees

Player Date Series G# Opponent Pitcher Result
Lance Berkman* 10/7/2010 ALDS 2 Twins Carl Pavano W 5-2
Rondell White 10/1/2002 ALDS 1 Angels Jarrod Washburn W 8-5
Shane Spencer* 9/30/1998 ALDS 2 Rangers Rick Helling W 3-1
Jim Leyritz 10/4/1995 ALDS 2 Mariners Tim Belcher W 7-5
Rick Cerone* 10/8/1980 ALCS 1 Royals Larry Gura L 2-7
Roger Maris* 10/5/1960 WS 1 Pirates Vern Law L 4-6
Elston Howard* 9/28/1955 WS 1 Dodgers Don Newcombe W 6-5
George Selkirk* 9/30/1936 WS 1 Giants Carl Hubbell L 1-6

*HR came in player’s first at bat.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

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