New York left-hander Andy Pettitte tries to add to his remarkable postseason resume and give the Yankees a decisive two games to none lead in the best-of-five American League Division Series on Monday against the Baltimore Orioles.
After sitting out a year, Pettitte came out of retirement to pitch for the Yankees this season. But his return was derailed in late June when he took a line drive off his left leg during a start against Cleveland and broke his fibula near the junction with the ankle.
"A lot of ups and downs, a roller coaster for sure, but in the end we got to where we want to be, we're in the position we wanted to be in," he said. "This is what I was hoping to have the opportunity to do, and so that's exciting for me personally. All in all, it's been a good year so far. Hopefully we can continue to do this."
Pettitte came back to make three starts in September and was 2-1 with a 1.62 ERA in those outings. Overall, he was 5-4 with a 2.87.
"I feel good about it, I'm ready to go," said Pettitte. "Like I've said, I'm a little bit of a perfectionist, I think the only thing I can say is I'm ready. I'm going to quit analyzing what I had at the end of the season."
But, Pettitte's worth has always come in the postseason, where his 19 wins are the most all-time, four more than Atlanta's John Smoltz. His 263 innings are also more the most in postseason history.
Pettitte, who has won four of his last six Game 2 starts, has dominated the Orioles over the course of his career, posting a 27-6 mark to go along with a 3.52 ERA. He's also 15-2 with a 2.97 ERA in his last 21 starts against them and has won his last seven decisions.
"We got to where we want to be, we're in the position we wanted to be in," Pettitte said. "This is what I was hoping to have the opportunity to do, and so that's exciting for me, personally."
New York jumped out in front of this series on Sunday, as Russell Martin sparked a five-run ninth inning with a leadoff home run, helping the Yankees to a 7-2 win in Game 1 at Camden Yards.
Ichiro Suzuki added a run-scoring single in the ninth and finished with two RBI, while Robinson Cano also knocked in a pair of runs for the Yankees, who held off the Orioles in the final week of the regular season to capture their 12th AL East title in 15 years.
CC Sabathia (1-0) allowed the two runs on eight hits and a walk with seven strikeouts over 8 2/3 innings in the win. He had been 0-2 in three starts against the Orioles this season.
"I wish I could tell you I changed my game plan but I didn't. I pitched to my strengths," Sabathia said. "These guys know what I'm trying to do, I've faced them a lot. I was just able to execute tonight."
Jim Johnson (0-1) surrendered all five runs -- four earned -- in the ninth to take the loss for Baltimore, which was coming off a 5-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in the AL's one-game wild card playoff.
Jason Hammel made his first start since Sept. 11 for the Orioles and allowed two runs on four hits and four walks over 5 2/3 innings.
"That was probably the difference with us being in the ballgame, Jason pitching real well," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Baltimore will rely on rookie left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who closed the year by losing his last four decisions spanning seven starts. The Taiwanese product ended his first year in the majors at 12-11 with a 4.02 ERA.
"I'm from Taiwan, I pitched in Japan, and I'm a rookie here," Chen, speaking through interpreter Tim Lin, said on the eve of Game 2, "I never thought of pitching a postseason (game), and this is really a big dream for me."
Chen will have six days' rest heading into this start and his ERA drops from 4.93 to 2.28 in those situations this season.
He was 1-2 in four starts versus the Yankees with a 5.25 ERA.
"He should have some history with them, and we've gotten a return for those times (he's been rested)," Showalter said. "He's pitched well."
The Orioles and Yankees are certainly no strangers to one another and in addition to splitting 18 regular season meetings this season, these teams also met in the 1996 ALCS, a series won by New York, but one that was made famous by the Jeffrey Maier catch.
New York won that series in five games with Pettitte nailing down the final victory.