Andy Pettitte’s 10 Best Playoff Starts

Pettitte pitches in the 1996 World Series against AtlantaI wanted to do this last week, but I never really got the chance. Anyway, he is one last (probably) post on Andy Pettitte. He has the reputation for being a great big game pitcher so here is a list of his 10 best post season starts.

10. The Game: ALDS, game 2 vs. Texas

The Date: October 7, 1999

Pettitte’s line: 7.1 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K

Game summary: The 1999 Rangers had a dominating offense and finished 1st in the division with a 95-67 record, but the 1999 Yankees, were coming off one of their best seasons in franchise history and backed it up with a 98 win season that year. The two teams faced each other in the ALDS and after the Yankees easily took the first game 8-0 they turned to Pettitte for game two.

This was a vintage Pettitte start. He bended, but never broke and ultimately only gave up a solo shot to Juan Gonzalez in the fourth inning. He also battled out of jams in the second and fifth innings. Eventually he handed the game over to Jeff Nelson and Mariano Rivera who faced five batters, retiring them all. The Yankees won 3-1.

9. The Game: ALDS, game 3 vs. Minnesota

The Date: October 11, 2009

Pettitte’s line: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

Game summary: The Minnesota Twins needed 163 games to make the playoffs that year and the Yankees needed only three to get rid of the. After taking the first two games of the series the Yankees sent Pettitte to the mound to finish them off and he didn’t disappoint.

The Yankees offense took a while to show up for this one as they were shutout over the first six innings, but Pettitte kept them in the game as he was perfect through 4.2 innings and didn’t allow a run until a Joe Mauer RBI-single drove in Denard Span in the bottom of the sixth.

The following inning the Yankees finally broke through with solo shots by Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada. Pettitte faced just one more batter before handing the ball off to Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Rivera to finish off the game. The Yankees won 4-1.

8. The Game: ALCS, game 5 vs. Baltimore

The Date: October 13, 1996

Pettitte’s line: 8 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

Game summary: The Yankees won this series in just five games, but it was much closer than that in reality as the Yankees got some big breaks (Game 1 was the Jeffrey Maier home run game). Still the Yankees had a 3-1 lead and sent Pettitte, still in his first full season, to the mound to clinch the series.

Pettitte came out and threw two perfect innings when the Yankees jumped all over Scott Erickson and tagged him for six runs in the third inning. From there on Pettitte just cruised and the only runs the Orioles could score off him came as solo homers from Todd Zeile in the sixth and Eddie Murray in the eighth. Pettitte handed the ball over to John Wetteland in the ninth and the game was over. The Yankees won 6-4.

7. The Game: ALDS, game 2 vs. Minnesota

The Date: October 2, 2003

Pettitte’s line: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 10 K

Game summary: The Twins took the first game of the 2003 ALDS and it was up to Pettitte to keep them from getting a strong 2-0 edge in the series. Pettitte was just what the Yankees ordered as he nearly shut the Twins down over seven innings, allowing just four hits and striking out 10.

In the beginning of this one, Pettitte was dominant and really only had troubles with Shannon Stewart until Torii Hunter homered to leadoff the fifth inning. From that point on the Twins presented some trouble for Pettitte, but it was nothing that he couldn’t handle. He allowed multiple base runners in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings, but didn’t allow a single one to score. He handed the ball off to Rivera in the eighth inning for a two out save to preserve the 4-1 Yankees win.

6. The Game: ALDS, game 2 vs. Texas

The Date: September 30, 1998

Pettitte’s line: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

Game summary: The Yankees won a franchise record 114 regular season games that year, but it would have meant nothing without a World Series title. In the first round the Yankees faced the Texas Rangers who as usual had an amazing lineup. Pettitte had no problem dealing with them though.

In the fifth inning he had a perfect game broken up by a Gonzalez double. He scored two batters later on a Ivan Rodriguez single. That was only a blip though as he retired six of the next seven batters before handing the ball off to Nelson. Rivera got the save as the Yankees won 3-1.

5. The Game: World Series, game 4 vs. San Diego

The Date: October 21, 1998

Pettitte’s line: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K

Game summary: Pettitte had thrown a great game in the 1998 ALDS, but had a bad one in the ALCS that year so the Yankees moved him to the back of the rotation for the World Series. Pettitte didn’t pitch until game four with his team already up 3-0. It might have been a low pressure situation, but Kevin Brown was on the mound that night and he was in the middle of his prime. All Pettitte did was out-dueled one of the best pitchers in the game.

He had no problem in the first, but loaded the bases in the second before retiring Brown to escape danger. He retired the next eight batters before Brown singled in the fifth, but he got the next batter. The Yankees finally scratched out a run in the sixth inning, but with just a 1-0 lead Pettitte still had to come through big. He did that in the sixth and seventh innings before running into trouble in the eighth. Pettitte put two runners on that inning, but as has been the common theme among all of these games, a strong bullpen, Nelson and Rivera of course, bailed him out as the Yankees went on to win 3-0.

4. The Game: ALDS, game 2 vs. Oakland

The Date: October 4, 2000

Pettitte’s line: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

Game summary: The 2000 Yankees limped into the playoffs and faced a very strong Athletics team in the first round who featured a powerful lineup and a very young big three in Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito. This easily could have been the end of the Yankees dynasty, but down 1-0 in the series already they turned to Pettitte in game two.

Pettitte didn’t start this one off great. He put two base runners on in the first and needed a double-play to get him out of trouble. He quickly settled down though as he tossed a perfect second, fourth, and fifth innings. In the sixth he gave up a leadoff double to Eric Chavez, but that was all. In the seventh he gave up two singles, but thanks to a double-play he escaped unharmed. In the eighth inning, he got the first two batters, but needed a four-out save from Rivera as the Yankees won 4-0.

3. The Game: ALCS, game 1 vs. Seattle

The Date: October 17, 2001

Pettitte’s line: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

Game summary: The 2001 Mariners had a great offense, better pitching, and won an American League record 116 games that year. With a team this good it is important not to give them any momentum whatsoever. So the Yankees turned to Pettitte for game one.

A team like this normally gets a lot of respect, but Pettitte treated them like they were the Pirates. Against a 116 win team, Pettitte faced just two batters over the minimum through eight innings. Back-to-back hits in the fifth, a seventh inning single and a second inning walk were both erased on double-plays. The Yankees won 4-2.

2. The Game: World Series, game 2 vs. Florida

The Date: October 19, 2003

Pettitte’s line: 8.2 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

Game summary: Nobody expected much from the 2003 Marlins, but looking back they had a team full of young stars and we should have known better. They eventually beat the Yankees to win the World Series, but not before Pettitte had his way with them in game two.

In game two, Pettitte faced the minimum through four. Miguel Cabrera reached on an E5 in the fifth, Juan Encarnacion walked to leadoff the sixth, and Mike Lowell singled in the eighth. All of those batters were stranded as Pettitte cruised through those innings.

He nearly went the distance in this game, but a single, an error, and an RBI-single from Derrek Lee knocked him out of the game. Jose Contreras got the final out as the Yankees won 6-1.

1. The Game: World Series, game 5 vs. Atlanta

The Date: October 24, 1996

Pettitte’s line: 8.1 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K

Game summary: I don’t think this game being in the no. 1 spot comes as a surprise to anybody. Yankee Classics were invited for this type of game. It was a classic duel between the supposedly over-matched Yankees and the Braves. It was their Cy Young award winning veteran against the Yankees new star who won 21 games in just his first full season. The Yankees weren’t supposed to win this series and the night after they needed extra innings to mount their miraculous come-from-behind victory, Pettitte was sent to the mound to give his team an edge in the series.

Smoltz showed he was not phased by the comeback just the night before as he opened the game by striking out the side. Pettitte matched him by picking up two strikeouts of his own in the first inning.

In both the second and third innings Pettitte walked one batter and allowed him to steal second, but he faced very little difficulty. In the meantime the Yankees scratched across a run in the top of the fourth when Charlie Hays reached on an error charged to the center fielder Marquis Grissom. Two batters later ‘Big Daddy’ Cecil Fielder doubled him in.

With a 1-0 lead, Pettitte went back to work in the fourth. He walked a batter, but erased him on a double-play. In the fifth he gave up one hit, but this time they caught the runner stealing second.

Smoltz and Grissom leadoff the sixth inning with back-to-back singles, but Pettitte quickly worked his way out of trouble thanks to a bunt that Pettitte threw to third to get the lead runner. The next batter, Chipper Jones, hit the ball back to Pettitte who started a 1-4-3 double-play.

Still with just a 1-0 lead going into the seventh inning, Fred McGriff led off the inning by reaching on a Derek Jeter error. It didn’t phase Pettitte who got the next three batters to get out of the inning with little noise. The eighth inning was quiet despite a Grissom single.

In the top of the ninth inning the Yankees still held a 1-0 lead and managed to get runners on first and third, but the batter who came to the plate was Pettitte himself. Joe Torre left him in to hit though because Jones, a switch hitter, and McGriff, a lefty, were coming up to the plate to lead off the next inning.

This is where the tension grew immense. Pettitte flew out to left to end the inning. Then he came in and immediately gave up a double to Jones. He did get McGriff though and managed to turn the ball over to Wetteland who got the final two outs and finished off an amazing 1-0 victory for the Yankees. More importantly, Wetteland helped save a career defining moment for Pettitte.

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