Yankees spoil Pettitte's gutsy effort
Lefty escapes jam in sixth, tosses 6 1/3 scoreless frames
CLEVELAND -- Grady Sizemore sent a pitch from the Yankees' Andy Pettitte rocketing down the right-field line in the sixth inning, causing an eruption of cheers that shook Jacobs Field on Friday night. The volume inside the stadium reached its apex as the Indians center fielder slid safely into third base with a leadoff triple.
As the crowd's cries continued, Pettitte strolled back up the mound, appearing oblivious to the heightened pressure in one of the most pivotal points during Game 2 of the American League Division Series. For the seasoned southpaw, peering in to receive the signs from catcher Jorge Posada in such a scenario was nothing new.
"He's been in those situations many times," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, following New York's 2-1 loss in 11 innings to Cleveland.
As he did throughout his gutsy performance against the Indians, Pettitte was able to wiggle out of that intimidating sixth-inning jam. Clinging to a 1-0 lead, the 35-year-old left-hander induced a weak ground ball off the bat of Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera, who chopped the ball back to Pettitte for the frame's first out.
With the decibel level knocked down a level, Pettitte followed by striking out Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner on four pitches. Many Cleveland fans stopped frantically waving their towels at the point, and Pettitte completed his daunting task by using only three pitches to strike out catcher Victor Martinez to end the inning.
"He was outstanding. He was outstanding," repeated Posada, still shaking his head in disbelief after the game. "He really battled, even after the leadoff triple. That's really tough to take when you get a leadoff triple, but he beared down and did a lot of things well after that."
That escape act was just one of many that Pettitte performed in his 6 1/3 innings, which moved him into a tie with Tom Glavine (218 1/3) for the most postseason innings logged in baseball history. The Yankees' starter put the leadoff hitter aboard in five of the seven frames he appeared in, but Cleveland went an abysmal 0-for-11 at the plate against Pettitte in each occurance.
"I was in an awful lot of trouble," Pettitte said, "and had to make some huge pitches in just about every inning to get out of some situations. It takes a lot out of you physically and mentally. I was thankful I was able to shut them down."
In the end, Pettitte's heroics were ultimately wasted after Cleveland rallied for one run in the eighth and another in the 11th. He didn't figure into the outcome, but that didn't mean Pettitte's performance was forgotten.
In fact, the outing had Yankees manager Joe Torre citing an AL Championship Series start 11 years ago, when Pettitte spun eight strong innings to help clinch a spot in the World Series.
"About as courageous a game as he's had," said Torre, whose club was similarly handcuffed by Indians starter Fausto Carmona. "It was really reminiscent of Game 5 in '96 to me. About the fourth inning on, I said, 'One run is going to have to be enough, looks like, because Carmona was so dominant."
Dating back to 2002, Pettitte has posted a 3-0 record over six Game 2 playoff starts, including five with New York. The lefty is the Yankees' all-time leader in postseason wins, innings and strikeouts, and Pettitte's appearance on Friday marked his 35th postseason start, moving him into a tie with Glavine for the most in history.
Pettitte's experience paid off from the onset of his outing against Cleveland.
In the first, Sizemore singled up the middle, but was stranded when Pettitte forced Cabrera to ground into a double play and then struck out Hafner. Jason Michaels doubled to open the third inning, but Pettitte set down the next three in order to escape unscathed again. The Indians put the leadoff hitter aboard again in the fourth and fifth -- only to walk away empty handed.
"He kept challenging himself," Jeter said. "He kept putting guys on base. But that's probably as good as I've seen him pitch all season, which is kind of hard to say, because he's been pitching good all year. He pitched out of some big jams."
That was until Torre ended Pettitte's outing with one out in the seventh inning. After the pitcher walked Jhonny Peralta to put runners on first and second base, New York's manager turned to setup man Joba Chamberlain.
Chamberlain halted Cleveland's rally in the seventh, but he slipped in the eighth, opening the door for the Indians' comeback. That had the rookie right-hander kicking himself, especially after witnessing the gritty showing by Pettitte, who walked off the hill with a chance to pick up another playoff win.
"Disappointing is an understatement," Chamberlain said. "Andy showed why he's the best at what he does. He got himself in situations -- a leadoff triple -- and he gets out of it. I come in and get out of the seventh, but in the eighth, I let him down and I let everybody else down."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.