“Look,” he said, “I’ve said it a hundred times. There are times when I’ve been awful heading into the playoffs and been great once the playoffs started, and times I’ve been terrific heading in and I’ve struggled my first start in the postseason. I don’t think you can read too much into one start.”
It’s better to read into 40 starts: 40, as in the number of times that Pettitte has taken the ball in the postseason, 36 of them as a member of the Yankees, five more starts than any pitcher in the history of postseason baseball. Pettitte is the all-time postseason leader in wins (18), innings pitched (249), and he’s third in strikeouts (164). Yes, he has had as much opportunity to play postseason baseball as any pitcher who ever has lived.
“I have to have better command of what I’m throwing, my pitch sequences against them tonight was just terrible, and I wasn’t able to throw my cutter at all,” Petitte said, and through a different prism this might be a bit more worrisome but through Pettitte’s shrugged shoulders it delivered another message:
This isn’t his first rodeo. Even if it might be his last.
“Andy,” Joe Girardi said, “knows what he’s doing. Even when he isn’t having a whole lot of success.”
These are uncomfortable times around the Yankees, and with reason. The Rays won again last night, so the Yankees awaken this morning, officially, as a second-place team again. The Red Sox, now six games behind the Yankees in the loss column, saw their tragic number shrink to 3, but realize that at the very least they can stave off the gallows with at least one more win this weekend, and maybe throw a genuine jolt of concern at the Yankees with a sweep.
So it wasn’t the ideal time for the Yankees to see their projected No. 2 playoff starter get lit up, even as Mark Teixeira hit his first two September homers, even as Alex Rodriguez continued to swing a hot bat with two homers of his own, even as the offense perked up and very nearly stole a game the Yankees had no business being in. Not now. Not a day after CC Sabathia got drilled by the Rays. Not with the rest of the Yankees rotation turning its lonely eyes to Petttite.
“I wasn’t great tonight,” Pettitte said. “But I have one more [regular-season] start, and I believe that I’ll pitch well then, and then we have October and ... well, I’ve got 40 starts in my career in the postseason.”
No, I'm not too concerned about Pettitte either, or Sabathia for that matter. What concerns me is the attitude this team has taken onto the field everyday for the last two months. A stretch of time that has seen them go 26-25. Sure, there was an 8-game winning streak in the middle of it, but since that streak ended, they're just 6-12.
This isn't exactly a team that's hitting its stride as they enter October. It's more like a team that looks old and tired and is extremely lucky both the Red and White Sox had terrible Septembers.