Results tagged ‘ Andy Pettite ’

Game 6 – Take II

stadium_450_102509.jpgBy Jon Lane
It’s definitely not a stretch to say that the weather is a tad better than it was 25 hours ago. At that time the game was postponed, we were scurrying to piece together information, and I ended driving home on the Northern State River.

A different story this evening one hour before Andy Pettitte throws the first pitch of what could be an American League-pennant clinching game, which would be the 40th in Yankees history. Two things I noted yesterday was Pettitte being one win from becoming baseball’s all-time leader in series-clinching wins (his four is tied with Roger Clemens, Catfish Hunter and Dave Stewart). Yesterday was also 13 years to the night when Pettitte out-dueled John Smoltz in a 1-0 victory in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, a win that gave New York a 3-2 win and set the table for its first World Championship in 18 years.

What more historical karma? Twenty-three years ago tonight, Mookie Wilson’s grounder ate Bill Buckner and gave the Mets an improbable 6-5 win that tied the 1986 Fall Classic at 3-3. Watching batting practice earlier, these Yankees had that all-business aura about them, yet kept each other loose. Robinson Cano was at the dugout steps exchanging small talk when Derek Jeter tapped him on the helmet with his bat.

The Angels are taking BP now. As I’ve written previously, there is no quit in Mike Scioscia’s team. If the Yankees can pound Joe Saunders earlier, it would certainly give everyone a chance to catch their breath. But don’t count in it. Three out of the five games played in this ALCS have been decided by one run – with Games 2 and 3 needing extra innings. I’m anticipating another pitcher’s duel. Saunders is a 16-game winner who gave up two runs in seven frames in Game 2. Pettitte is 6-2 with a 4.14 ERA in 12 LCS starts and 6-1, 3.95 in 10 starts as a Yankee.

Given how the 2009 season has played out, a close game benefits the New Yorkers. Besides their league-high 57 wins at Yankee Stadium (4-0 in the playoffs), they own 22 postseason walk-off wins. After winning 15 of the walk-off variety in the regular season, the Yankees have two in the playoffs, one coming on a home run.

Of course, all this means nothing; the game has to be played. But I’m one of many who has played the mystique and aura cards while telling stories (my colleague Chris Shearn is a firm believer in karma.) When you think you’ve seen enough, Alex Rodriguez takes Joe Nathan and Brian Fuentes deep to rescue the Yankees from certain defeat.

Let’s see what develops tonight. Back with much more, starting with Bernie Williams throwing out the first pitch.

7:50 p.m. Playing on the Stadium jukebox during a montage of Yankees highlights: The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight,” The Black Eyed Peas’ “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night.” Think Stadium Ops want the Yankees to get it done this evening?
 
8:10 p.m. Chuck Mangione with a beautiful rendition of our national anthem. Mangione also played the anthem the day Dave Righetti threw his no-hitter on July 4, 1983. Thanks to Bill Stimers (aka “Bill the Baker” and longtime friend of George Steinbrenner) for that nugget. (There’s that karma thing again.)

bernie_250_102509.jpgMeanwhile, Bernie Williams walked to the mound to an incredible ovation to throw out the first pitch.

8:19 p.m. Andy Pettitte warming up to “Welcome to the Jungle.” The new house is stoked.

8:21 p.m. First pitch a called strike to Chone Figgins. Game time temperature 58 degrees.

8:26 p.m. Man on a mission: Pettitte pitches a clean first throwing 12 pitches, nine for strikes.

8:37 p.m. An eventful bottom of the first ends with a thud. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez stroke back-to-back two-out singles (the latter extended his postseason hitting streak to 11 games). Jorge Posada, however, ended the threat with a fly out to right field. The Yankees are batting .216 (16-for-74) with runners in scoring position in the playoffs.

8:41 p.m. Swishlicious! Nick Swisher executes a 9-9-3 double play, capitalizing on yet another Angels baserunning blunder, this time when Vladimir Guerrero got caught too far off first. Now Nick Swisher has to start hitting.

8:46 p.m. 0-0 after 1 1/2. For fun facts and figures, meet Joe Auriemma At the Bat.

8:55 p.m. Swisher just gets under a Saunders 3-2 pitch and flies out to left. He’s now 3-for-30 (.100) in the postseason.

8:59 p.m. Big spot for Johnny Damon: Bases loaded, Saunders needing a breather and that galling RISP postseason stat.

9:03 p.m. Unreal. A ground out to first on the second pitch Damon sees. Saunders has thrown 38 pitches, yet the Yankees have stranded five through two innings and there’s no score. That RISP average? It’s now .213. The Yankees may be the cardiac crew, but they cannot continue to blow these golden opportunities.

9:05 p.m. The Jeff Mathis now has eight hits (five doubles) this postseason. The Yankees might rue the day they failed with runners on base.

9:15 p.m. 1-0 Angels on Bobby Abreu’s run-scoring single. Pettitte is pitching well outside of the Mathis double. He needs help from his offense.

9:23 p.m. Hmmm …. A fly ball to deep right that did NOT carry out of this ballpark?

9:33 p.m. Pettitte razor-sharp in the fourth with two called strikeouts (with help from plate umpire Dale Scott on a low-and-outside Strike 3 to Guerrero). It’d be a good time for the offense to break through. Swisher is due up second.

9:38 p.m. Swisher with a base hit to left. First and second with nobody out. Now or never.

damon_250_102509.jpg9:48 p.m. Breakthrough and redemption. Damon strokes a two-run single to center field.

10:00 p.m. The good news: Yankees chase Saunders, put up three runs and Posada faces Darren Oliver with the bases loaded. The bad news: A double-play grounder ends the inning. You can’t squander chances to break the game open in the postseason, folks. Think of it like a football team stalling in the red zone and settling for field goals.

At this rate you’re getting Pettitte for seven and Mariano Rivera for two.

10:13 p.m. Game 6 attendance: 50,173, the largest ever at the new Yankee Stadium.

10:25 p.m. Big spot for Guerrero, who went yard of Pettitte in Game 3.

10:27 p.m. Guerrero has something left, lofting a pitch about four inches from the ground into right for a double. It’s second and third with two out for Pettitte with Joba Chamberlain warming up.

10:32 p.m. Pettitte squeaks out of the sixth after deflecting Kendry Morales’ comebacker and throwing the first for the final out to put the Yankees nine outs away from their 40th AL pennant. He’s thrown 91 pitches through six innings and could be done for the night. Cabrera, Jeter and Damon are due up. An insurance run or three
won’t hurt, especially the way Chamberlain and Phil Hughes have looked in the postseason.

10:43 p.m. Here’s why this game is far from over: The Yankees have left nine men on base and ended the sixth when Mark Teixeira grounded into a double play. Failing to break it open against Darren Oliver is cause for concern.

Pettitte’s out to start the seventh, BTW.

pettitte_200_102509.jpg10:49 p.m. Pettitte leaves to a well-deserved standing ovation with a runner on and one out, and tips his cap, after throwing 99 pitchers in 6 1/3 innings. Chamberlain in relief. Two years ago this is a security blanket. Not so this year (seven hits, 2 2/3 innings).

11:02 p.m. Yankees are six outs away thanks to a Joba well done. A-Rod leads off the seventh with a single. He’s my choice for ALCS MVP if the Yankees get those last six outs.

11:08 p.m. Rivera warming up to work two innings. Good move. Meanwhile, Posada grounds into his second double play.

11:11 p.m. Make that the Yankees are six Mariano Rivera outs from their 40th AL pennant and a date with Cliff Lee and the Phillies here Wednesday night.

11:24 p.m. Inopportune time for Rivera to allow his first earned
run in a postseason home game since October 22, 2000 (Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets). It sliced the
Yankees’ lead to 3-2 before Rivera recovered to retire Kendry Morales.
Three outs to go.

Give credit to these Angels. They don’t quit. Ever.

11:36 p.m. The Angels have heart, but they are careless and probably threw away their season. First, Howie Kendrick dropped Morales’ throw after he fielded Swisher’s sacrifice bunt. Melky Cabrera put down a sacrifice that was to move runners to second and third, except Scott Kazmir threw it 10 feet over Kendrick’s head, allowing a valuable insurance run to come home.

11:44 p.m. Well, Teixeira made one loud out, but it got another run home to give Rivera a three-run lead. Is the game over? No. But I like those odds.

11:55 p.m. Rivera working the ninth needing those last three outs. Yankees fans are ready to party. And as I write, Kenrick grounds out to first. Two to go.

12:01 a.m.
Gary Matthews Jr., pinch-hitting for Mike Napoli, strikes out and the Yankees win their 40th American League pennant. They begin their first World Series since 2003 Wednesday night when CC Sabathia opposes Cliff Lee in this building. More from the clubhouse coming later.

Waiting: The hardest part

rivera250.jpgBy Jon Lane
Since the Yankees opened the Division Series battle against the Twins on October 7, they’ve had eight days off over the past 17 days – 20 if you include the time between their regular-season finale and Game 1 of the ALDS.

Thanks to Mother Nature, make that nine. For one of the rare times this month, the forecast for rain was correct, baseball’s luck with the weather ran out and Game 6 of the ALCS was postponed until 8:20 Sunday night at Yankee Stadium.

Andy Pettitte will remain Joe Girardi’s starter; the manager resisted the temptation to go for the kill and start CC Sabathia on normal rest to have him ready if there’s a Game 7.

“Who else would you want for a Game 7 if there is a Game 7?” Pettitte said. “I never thought they would not throw me tomorrow.”

Physically, Pettitte admitted that his body has appreciated the extra rest. Since the Yankees skipped one of his starts in mid-September due to shoulder fatigue, he’s been allotted an extra day’s rest between starts. As an younger player, Pettitte said that would set him back, but because he’s 37 years old, he admitted it’s “probably great for me.”

That didn’t mean he was happy with the rainout, however,

“The worst part of it is just the wait,” Pettitte said. “This was the longest day ever. You realize it’s a rainout – get ready to do it tomorrow – but it’s just frustrating from the standpoint it’s just such a long day, when you’re so ready and so anxious to get the game going.”

As I noted earlier, minutes before the game was called, MLB officials were conferring with
Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland. The look on his face essentially
said there was no way he was having Pettitte warm up. Furthermore, last thing the manager or pitching coach on both sides wanted was their starters to have to start the game, stop due to a delay and fire it up again if the game were to be resumed.

“I don’t think any of us are exactly sure when the rain is going to get out of here, how late it’s going to be, so I respect the decision that they made,” Girardi said. “I’m sure both clubs would have loved to have played. The weather is not permitting.”

“If it’s good enough to play a game, I think any ball team wants to — if you’re going to start a game, just have a fair amount of confidence you’re going to be able to finish it, and not have it be so disjointed and segmented because of weather,” agreed Angels skipper Mike Scioscia.

Besides the pitchers, everyone is affected playing in the slop and mud, no matter how state-of-the-art Yankee Stadium’s drainage system is compared to the building across the street.

“You don’t want anybody to get hurt,” said Mariano Rivera. “It’s bad weather out there. Waiting another day isn’t going to kill us.”

_______________________

Good line from Jerry Hairston: He and Mark Teixeira were discussing the inordinate amount of off days while in the indoor batting cages when, according to Hairston, Teixeira told him, “I have a new respect for utility players.”

“I just started laughing,” Hairston said. “I said why don’t you give me
part of that [pay check] you got there.”

Teixeira is in the first year of an eight-year contract that’s paying him $180 million. Hairston re-signed with the Reds for one year and $2 million in January and was acquired by the Yankees at the non-waiver trade deadline. Mother Nature, though, doesn’t discriminate between the rich and the filthy, dirty rich.

“That’s the life of a baseball
player,” Hairston said. “You’re going to have your rain outs, but we don’t make excuses.
You have to go out and play.”

_______________________

Game 7 is “if necessary,” but the media could not help asking about a potential Game 7. This was supposed to be A.J. Burnett’s day to throw a side session, but he
did not. The thinking was to ensure he’d be available for long relief or
if it’s all hands on deck in an elimination game. Burnett said he’d be ready in an emergency for both Games 6 and 7.

“If I need to come out and help, I’ll be ready,” Burnett said. “I’ll be ready for anything.”

Scioscia was asked about it, but did not confirm yet another one of those worst-kept secrets. If the Angels win Game 6, John Lackey is starting Game 7. Bet on it.

“If there was a seven, Lackey’s going to pitch,” Hairston said, mockingly. “They can say no, no … if you look at John’s reaction getting taken out of [Game 5], you think he’s a man that he’s not going to pitch a Game 7. They can sugarcoat it, but we’re concerned about Game 6 and we’re trying to win that game.”

_______________________

Scioscia was asked if he’s in favor of the added off day built in this week. In a word, no.

“Taking us almost 20 days to play eight games, I think that’s the wrong template for baseball,” Scioscia said.

swisher250.jpgOne person not complaining is Nick Swisher, 3-for-29 with 10 strikeouts in the postseason and who popped up Brian Fuentes’ 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded to end Game 5.

“You hear a lot of guys who say, ‘Man I wish we didn’t have all these
off days,’ but then again if you have bangs and bumps, and this and
that, it’s nice to have another day off,” Swisher said.

Swisher remained Girardi’s starter in right field and the manager doesn’t anticipate any changes tomorrow night. Swisher has taken advantage of the down time by working extra hard with hitting coach Kevin Long. A player fueled by emotion, Swisher was texted something once said by Babe Ruth:

“It’s hard to beat up a guy who never
quits. It’s going to turn, it’s got to. You have to have a positive
attitude about it.”

Girardi stuck with Johnny Damon after a 1-for-12 Division Series. He’s doing the same with Swisher despite considering inserting Brett Gardner in center field and shifting Melky Cabrera over to right.

“It’s amazing,” Swisher said. “Skip’s such a great guy. He’s the best manager I’ve ever played for, no doubt. You have to keep battling and keep grinding.

“I never lost any confidence. I’m frustrated, but Skip has faith in me and my teammates do. I just turn it up, strap it on a little tighter. I had a run like this during the regular season and no one seemed to care. But it’s at that point now when it’s on the biggest stage. You want to go out there and do sooo well. Maybe I’m just pressing a bit too much.

“Skip told me the other day, ‘Be yourself. You had a great year, just keep doing the things you’re normally used to doing.’ I’ll be ready to go tonight when I go to sleep. I’ll be ready to go tomorrow when I wake up and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

_______________________

As I wrap up blogging for the evening, it’s 8:02, five minutes after what would have been first pitch. It’s raining and raining hard. Unless Major League Baseball wanted to wait and play at midnight, there was no way this game was being played. MLB made the right decision to benefit both the players and the fans.

Talk to y’all tomorrow.

Game 6 topics

By Jon Lane
Why didn’t Joe Girardi go to the bullpen to start the seventh inning?
Damned
if you do, damned if you don’t. Girardi’s been an easy target whenever
things have gone wrong, but I didn’t kill him for sending A.J. Burnett
back in despite sitting for about a half hour. After all, he kept the
Yankees in the game and had thrown just 80 pitches. That said, I would have gave him the hook after that leadoff walk.
You have a rested bullpen that you’ve maximized to the fullest this
whole postseason. That was the ideal time to use it. Furthermore,
certain guys are better served by starting innings (read: Phil Hughes).

What has happened to Nick Swisher? Will he be in Saturday’s starting lineup?
Three
hits in 29 at-bats with 10 strikeouts, making two outs in that sixth
inning and popping up a game-deciding 3-2 pitch. Logic says bench him,
but I doubt Girardi will do that with the Angels throwing left-hander
Joe Saunders and the alternative, Brett Gardner, a lefty hitter. But
memo to a manager who manages by the numbers: Swisher is 1-for-6 with
two RBIs against Saunders this year and 5-21, 6 RBIs lifetime. Right
now, when it matters, he’s lost. Saunders has never faced Gardner and
the element of surprise works in the latter’s favor. Furthermore,
batting Gardner ninth with Derek Jeter leading off gives you a nice
look and tightens the outfield defense. I’d do it.

Why doesn’t David Robertson have a bigger role out of the bullpen?

I
have no idea. Robertson’s pitched three scoreless innings in the
postseason, none bigger than Game 2 in the Division Series. This is
where Girardi has to put the binder away and go with his gut. If
Robertson has his best stuff, nobody is hitting him, not Jeff Mathis,
Vlad Guerrerro, Kendry Morales, nobody.

If Saturday brings a rainout and the Angels win Game 6, will John Lackey start Game 7 on three days’ rest?
Duh.

Will it actually rain Saturday night?
Here’s the forecast,
but don’t cancel your plans yet. Thursday’s YES Network Toyota Text
Poll presented a great question on who has had the worst performance
this postseason: Baserunners, closers, umpires or meteorologists. Maybe
Mother Nature will provide one more reprieve. If not, Game 6 and (if necessary) Game 7 will be played Sunday and Monday, respectively.

P.S. I hate rain.

Fire Girardi if the Yankees lose the series?
Jesse Spector of The New York Daily News got ahead of himself with this column,
but prefaced it so it’s not a reactionary thing. There’s no doubt
Girardi has made some really strange decisions this postseason, but
he’s not managing in the crazy 1970s and ’80s either. Unless the
Yankees completely spit the bit these next two games, he comes back
next season win or lose.

Do the Yankees need an answer to the Rally Monkey?
Steven Goldman thinks so: King Kong.
They do have that Rocky II montage, yet a team with 15 walk-off wins
finds a way to get it done without any gimmicks. Swisher has said it
many times: The Yankees feed off the energy of their fans and that
energy has done wonders.

Who will win Game 6?
Yankees.
I had Yankees in six from the get-go. Andy Pettitte, for the umpteenth
time, proves his mettle and the Yankees go ahead for good in the
seventh … on a clutch pinch-hit by Swishlicious.

Two down, two to go

By Jon Lane
Two crazy, sleep-deprived days defined my Friday and Saturday. I’m not
in California, so most of my Sunday was spent playing catch-up.

The Yankees resume their series against the Angels ahead two games to none. CC Sabathia took over the game, and the town, Friday night, while Jerry Hairston Jr. made his first postseason game a memorable one
to end Saturday’s marathon. And with Sabathia named the Yankees’
official starter for Game 4, the team will be in position for a
shocking sweep if Andy Pettitte outduels Jered Weaver this afternoon.

If what Sabathia didn’t pitch one of the best postseason games in history, it’s pretty close, writes Steven Goldman.

Studs and Duds were aplenty in Game 1 and in Game 2. Thanks to Jonathan Tayler and Adam Spunberg, respectively, for their takes. And thanks to our friends at River Ave. Blues for their hard work and contributions to YESNetwork.com. Ben, Joe or Mike will have a Game 3 recap after the game along with complete coverage from our crew out west.

Game 1 wrap: Sabathia the smooth operator

By Jon Lane
In my postgame feature I wrote about how CC Sabathia is the atypical starting pitcher. I covered the team when David Wells was here and before each of his starts he blasted his stereo loud enough to be heard outside of the closed clubhouse door.

Wells, like many, believe they have to journey deep into the zone and get jacked up to get that extra edge. Sabathia? He’ll mingle and play a few games of RBI Baseball on the old-school Nintendo. Simply chilling out is something Andy Pettitte can relate to.

“There’s no sense in grinding all day long and in here,” Pettitte said. “If you can get locked in 30 minutes or so before your start, it’s usually, for me, it’s the easiest way to do it. And I think that’s kind of how ‘C’ is.”

‘C’ is also a guy who leads a power pitching staff that’s dominated opponents via the strikeout. Last season, Yankees starting pitchers ranked 19th with 618 strikeouts. In 2009, they were sixth with 777. Following Sabathia in Game 2 is Burnett. While he many not keep you at ease like the big lefty, when he’s on, Burnett is electric. And if he’s on, he has the stuff to turn out anyone’s lights.

Sabathia is the perfect guy for Burnett to follow, yet another definition of a staff ace.

“He’s had a huge impact on me,” Burnett said. “I’ve had the pleasure of following him often this year. There ain’t nothing like going after him. He sets the tone, he comes out and he attacks. He has that confidence, too. He’s prepared every fifth day. He works hard in between every fifth day. That’s what you want to see from your fellow starters. You want to see commitment and effort. He’s non stop through the whole season. To be able to throw that many innings and do what he does year in and year out, he’s definitely an ace, number one.”

Again, Burnett can drive you crazy, but he hasn’t melted in “big games” and will be presented with a golden opportunity to give the Yankees a 2-0 series lead before heading west.

Until later today, a day in which the forecast is again ominous, thanks for reading.

ALDS rotation set

By Jon Lane
Joe Girardi announced his ALDS rotation: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. That lines up Sabathia for Game 4 and Burnett for a deciding Game 5 if they are necessary.

Girardi cited the home and road splits among the factors behind his decision.

Burnett
5-3, 3.51 (home)
8-6, 4.59 (road)

Pettitte
6-4, 4.59 (home)
8-4, 3.71 (road)

“I did not talk to A.J. about that,” Girardi said. “That was a decision I made – as a manager, you have to make some tough decisions and that was a very tough one.”

Regarding Jose Molina catching Burnett, which means Molina swings a bat in a decisive Game 5: “They’re working in a good rhythm and we thought we keep it that way and keep them working together. Georgie is our No. 1 catcher, but in this situation we chose to go with Molina.”

It’s unclear if Posada will DH in Game 2, but Girardi indicated Hideki Matsui will DH most of the time. Basically, it’ll come down to the match-ups.

No ALDS roster yet, which will be finalized after Tigers-Twins, but Sergio Pena, Brian Bruney and Ramiro Pena will head to Tampa to stay in shape. You figure Francisco Cervelli will be the third catcher and Damaso Marte the second left-hander out of the bullpen, and Girardi all but confirmed Joba Chamberlain will be active. He’ll work out of the bullpen and can pitch to as little as two hitters or more than three innings.

As if there was any suspense, the Yankees chose not to wait until the end of the Tigers-Twins game and formally announced they selected the Division Series with the extra off day. Put it in stone: CC Sabathia will throw the first pitch of Game 1 tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium.

Burnett sharpening mental edge

burnett_275_093009.jpgBy Jon Lane
Earlier this week I had a discussion with both a mentor and a friend, and also a big Yankees fan. While handicapping the Yankees’ postseason chances, the ultimate wild card came up in the conversation, A.J. Burnett.

The right-hander’s stuff is electric. He knows it. We know it. Everyone who plays with him, and those who pay big money to watch him, knows it. Yet during the season, and throughout his career, there’s been “The Good A.J.” and “The Bad A.J.” Some starts he’s won by guile over talent, but for the most part there’s been no middle ground. He’s either really, really good, or really, really bad.

My friend, let’s call him R.J., brought up a valid point. Burnett spent Monday in Arkansas to be his father, Bill, who underwent triple-bypass heart surgery. R.J. believed this had to be weighing heavily on his mind for a couple of months. All of us have spent the season breaking down Burnett’s inconsistencies. From May 27-July 27, he was 8-2 with a
2.08 ERA, allowing three runs or less in each of his 11 starts. His next seven starts (August 1-September 1), he went 0-4, 6.54. There were those who deduced the pressure of a pennant race, combined with New York’s ridiculous expectations, were getting to him.

He’s never pitched in the postseason, but Burnett’s delivered in big spots before (see his one-hitter against the Red Sox August 7). He’s never hid from the media, made excuses or blamed Jorge Posada – when everyone was bracing and salivating for a tasty feud – no matter how big of a stinker he produced. Lose or win, Burnett, even when he used the worn “One game at a time” cliche, was always analytical. What he said made sense. His words resonated that the philosophy was much more than a cliche. It was a belief system, or what Pat Riley wrote in his book, The Winner Within a Core Covenant.

Collectively, the Yankees obeyed the code and it won them the AL East and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. To play deep into October, Burnett will have to dig deeper, and so far, so good. He held the Royals to an earned run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings with three walks and eight strikeouts Tuesday night. A big reason was that old “one pitch at a time” attitude, but again, Burnett has a way of explaining it so that you’re not rolling your eyes at some boring team speak. 

“There’s times in the year where I made pitches, they’ve gotten hits and I’ve gotten really aggravated and let little things bother me,” Burnett said. “Now, I’m pushing it aside. Instead of, ‘Why did I do that?’ it’s ‘OK, now don’t do it again.’ There’s a lot of different thinking out there and it’s paid off.”

There’s an ongoing debate that will continue probably until the Twins and Tigers decide the AL Central: Who will start Game 2 of the Division Series? Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News breaks down the splits between Burnett and, the chic choice, Andy Pettitte. You can also vote on YESNetwork.com’s home page. As of this writing, Burnett has earned 55 percent of your votes.

Based on his track record alone, I’d go with Pettitte (14-9, 3.96 in 35 postseason starts) and Joe Torre’s go-to guy in Game 2. That has neither to do with performance –  Burnett has a 1.89 ERA over his last three outings, giving up four earned runs on 17 hits and nine walks over 19 innings, striking out 25 batters – nor fear of the unknown. Burnett won’t melt under the October lights; that August night under a postseason atmosphere he one-hit Boston over 7 2/3 innings and left with the game scoreless only because Josh Beckett was just as awesome. 

“A lot of times, people say, ‘He has no playoff experience,’ then guys go out that have no playoff experience and play extremely well,” said Joe Girardi. “We have expectations of him. There are a lot of games that you pitch that have playoff implications or playoff atmosphere that we play in during the course of the year, and some of those games, he’s pitched really well.

“Everyone is different. Until that person goes through it you really don’t know.”

Burnett knows why he was brought here. He knows what will be at stake – “The prize is next month,” Girardi told him – and what he has to do. It’ll be pass or fail for the right-hander, and not because he’ll fold mentally.

“As long as I’m clear upstairs I’m ready,” said Burnett. “The past couple of weeks have been a real important stretch for me.”

The next few will be, next to precious time spent with his father, the most important of his life. No explanations will be necessary.

Give Pettitte the ball in Game 2

pettitte_350_090109.jpgBy Jon Lane
Watching Andy Pettitte deal Monday night, I certainly was hoping for a perfect game. Seeing Jerry Hairston boot that routine grounder, I groaned, but held out hope for a no-hitter. Then witnessing Nick Markakis’ clean single, I groaned again. I’m a sucker for history who admittedly popped for Mark Buehrle when he threw his perfecto, and even saluted Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Derek Lowe for their no-nos while wearing Boston white and red.

You need a little – or in Buehrle’s case – lots of luck to throw a perfect game or a no-hitter. When less talented teams succeed, I sometimes believe that it’s better to be lucky than good. In Pettitte’s case Monday night, and as it relates to the Yankees since June, this hasn’t been luck. The Yankees have imposed their will on the rest of the league. Strange things have happened through the years that have proven Yogi Berra a soothsayer, but at 35 games above .500, only the mother of all monumental collapses will prevent the Yankees from playing in October.

Thus, looking ahead in the slightest will not tempt the fates. It’s a given that CC Sabathia, despite his shady postseason history, will start Game 1. The popular belief is A.J. Burnett will go in Game 2.

But why not Pettitte? You know his postseason history. His 14 wins are second all-time behind John Smoltz’s 15. And you’re aware of his track record in taking the ball in Game 2 of a postseason series, where he’s 6-3 in his Yankees career. Conversely, Burnett, who has stepped up (and also imploded) in big spots, hasn’t pitched in a playoff game. You want someone who has done it before, especially in a short series where pitching matters first and foremost.

Here’s what Pettitte has done to date coming off a down season when he pitched with a bum shoulder.

? Monday night, he worked only four two-ball counts before Hairston’s error, this after he retired the first 20 Orioles hitters. Pettitte struck out eight without a walk over eight innings. Baltimore’s other hit off the left-hander was Melvin Mora’s solo homer.

? Since the break, Pettitte is 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA in nine starts, allowing 45 hits and whiffing 62 over 59 2/3 innings. His 12 wins and 4.03 ERA rank second on the Yankees behind Sabathia. He has 190 wins as a Yankee, trailing only Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231).

? He’s healthy and pain free, to the point where he’s hinted aloud to wanting to pitch a few more seasons.

“It feels good to be healthy,” Pettitte said. “It feels good that my elbow after surgery doesn’t hurt anymore when I pitch.  “At this time last year my shoulder was absolutely killing me. It just feels good to feel healthy. I just hope I can hold it and keep it for another two months.”

Memo to Joe Girardi: Give him the ball in Game 2.

_______________________

If the season ended today, the Yankees would play the Tigers in the ALDS with Games 1 and 2 (and a fifth if necessary) at Yankee Stadium. It’d be a rematch of the 2006 DS when the Tigers, riding a six-game losing streak (the first five that cost them the AL Central flag), stunned Mike Mussina and the Yankees in Game 2 and didn’t lose again until Game 1 of World Series. Justin Verlander defeated Mussina that afternoon and is the Tigers’ unquestioned ace. But how will Edwin Jackson, Rick Porcello and Armando Galarraga react in a big spot? And remember how badly the Yankees wanted Jarrod Washburn and lost out to the Tigers on deadline day? Washburn is 1-2 with a 6.81 ERA in six starts for Detroit. He threw eight shutout innings August 14 against Kansas City, but other than that he’s been brutal. The left-hander was blasted for eight runs in 5 2/3 innings yesterday by the Rays.

The Tigers lead the Twins by only 3 games with seven games left against them (four in Detroit September 28-October 1). Their big-ticket acquisition may end up costing them the playoffs.

Hairston’s error was no doubt part of Monday’s story, but John Harper was a bit rough, don’t you think? The Yankees won the game.

Derek Jeter watch: The Captain is 10 from tying Lou Gehrig as the Yankees’ all-time hits leader.

Want to the go to the playoffs? River Ave Blues has information on ticket pricing and policies.

Showdown Series countdown: One day

longoria_250_080509.jpgBy Jon Lane
Because the Yankees knocked Roy Halladay out of the park three times, because Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera survived self-inflicted storms, and thanks to Evan Longoria’s second home run that capped a four-hour and 57-minute game, the Yankees are ensured to remain in first place when they come home to meet the Red Sox Thursday night.

New York defeated Halladay and Toronto, 5-3. Boston fell to Tampa Bay, 4-2, in 13 innings. The Yankees lead the AL East by 1 games. While the Yankees sweated out a victory, the Red Sox blew a 2-0 sixth-inning lead. Instead of riding a five-game winning streak, the Red Sox enter tonight deflated, exhausted and looking for bullpen help.

What does this mean for this pivotal four-game series? Nothing. Every day, every game, a story is re-written. And until the Yankees take significant steps to erase their 0-8 record against their rivals, the Red Sox own a major psychological advantage.

Onto a few of a latest storylines from both sides:

? Terry Francona got heat in Boston this morning for pitching to Longoria, who tied the game by going yard off Daniel Bard in the eighth, with first base open. The Rays’ sophomore slugger is second in the league with 81 RBIs and has eight homers and 24 RBIs lifetime against Boston pitching. He’s also dusted right-handers this season (.281-16-61) and in his brief career (.283-35-128). On Sports Radio WEEI, Dale & Holley were wishing that Francona walked Longoria, pulled Takashi Saito and brought in Clay Buchholz to face Ben Zobrist with the thinking if he loses Zobrist, he has a favorable matchup with Joe Dillion.

Walking Longoria was not an option, reported The Boston Globe. Francona indicated he felt he also would have had to walk Zobrist to make the decision worthwhile, which would have left the control-challenged Saito facing Joe Dillon with the bases loaded and the possibility of a game-ending walk. Furthermore, Buchholz wasn’t coming in until the 14th.

? Since Francona’s bullpen is worn out after using six relievers, and with Brad Penny (7-5, 5.07 ERA) coming off a July when he pitched three five-inning games, expect a roster move to import help from Triple-A Pawtucket.

? Remember when Jason Bay started Boston’s 8-0 run against the Yankees with a two-out, game-tying ninth-inning home run off Rivera on April 24? A bum hamstring has kept Bay out the last two games and he has just five RBIs since June 24. In July, Bay batted .192 with a homer and 29 strikeouts in 79 at-bats.

? Pettitte’s fine second half continued when he allowed only a run in 6 1/3 strong innings Tuesday night. The left-hander is approaching incentives that could earn him an additional $6.5 million in bonuses, writes Peter Abraham. Pettitte, starting Sunday night against Jon Lester, has worked 134 1/3 innings. When he reaches 150, he earns $500,000.

? Big start tonight (YES HD, 7 p.m.) for Sergio Mitre, the Yankees’ fifth starter by default. Despite his ugly numbers (1-0, 7.90, 1.98 WHIP, .400 BAA), Mitre isn’t pitching for his job (yet) simply because alternatives are limited. Unless the Yankees trade for a reliable back-end starter after he clears waivers, you have Josh Towers, who hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2007 but was named International League Pitcher of the Week after going 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts. And there’s Kei Igawa. Enough said there.

Mitre cited a flaw in his delivery that’s been flattening his sinker, one he’s confident he can fix, writes Anthony McCarron.

Halladay: A Natural Fit for Pinstripes

By Glenn Giangrande
Would the Blue Jays ever consider trading Roy Halladay to the Yankees?

Probably not.

Should the Yanks inquire and see what it would take?

Absolutely.

Fans of the Yanks often get criticized by others for wanting to play “fantasy baseball” – just bring in as many stars as possible! However, if recent comments made by Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi are to be believed, the right-handed ace could be in play.

“We have to see what’s out there,” Ricciardi said. “I’m not saying we’re going to shop him. But if something makes sense, we at least have to listen. We’re (leaning) more toward listening than we’ve ever been.”

While trading Halladay would send a tough message to Blue Jays fans, it appears to be the right move. Toronto’s pitching staff is chock full of youngsters, and the Jays are playing in a division filled with teams built to win now. Halladay’s big-money contract runs through next season, and he does have a full no-trade clause. Of course, clauses can be waived, money talks…you get the idea.

Prior to last season, the Yankees chose to hold onto a number of young chips while Johan Santana was on the trade market. With Andy Pettitte close to the end of his career, Chien-Ming Wang seemingly out for a long period of time, and Joba Chamberlain regressing in the rotation, Halladay is the kind of pitcher worth emptying the tank to acquire. Every youngster except Phil Hughes should be in play – he’s too valuable to this year’s cause in the bullpen.

Austin Jackson? Sure. Lastings Milledge was once a can’t-miss outfield prospect, remember?

Manuel Banuelos, the 18-year-old strikeout artist turning heads in Charleston? No problem. The Yankees are in the business of winning now. If a player isn’t on the Major League roster and is eligible to be traded, he’s expendable.

It’s not likely that Ricciardi would move Halladay to a divisional rival, and if this situation does indeed develop, a number of teams will put together packages for the ace that may trump what the Yankees could offer.

Still, he’d look so good pitching alongside CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett down the stretch that a phone call must be placed.