PHOENIX, UNITED STATES: New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettite throws to the plate during the first inning of Game 6 of the World Series in Phoenix 03 November 2001. The Yankees lead the series over the Diamondbacks 3-2. AFP PHOTO/Jeff HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)
Today, August 23rd, one of the most recognizable and successful Yankees will be immortalized. Andy Pettitte will have his number retired and he will be presented with a plaque in Monument Park. Pettitte was a hallmark of clutch pitching during his 18 years, winning 5 World Series titles and holding the records for most playoff victories (19), starts (42), and innings (276.2). It is obvious that the Yankee legend has had some impressive and important starts in October for the pinstripes.
This is my list of his 5 best victories in the playoffs- meaning that the final game of the 03 World Series will not be included (even though he went 7 and gave up 2 runs). All of these games were played for the Yankees and not the Astros, where he pitched in one postseason.
5. Game 5, 2001 ALCS: Let’s start with a clincher. This was the “least” impressive start on this list on the surface, as Pettitte only went 6.1 innings. He gave up 3 runs, but this was a Mariners team that won a record 116 games with an historic offense. That team scored nearly 1000 runs with the likes of Bret Boone, Ichiro Suzuki, and Edgar Martinez. To hold that lineup to just 3 runs in a game that they needed to win to stay alive is something impressive in itself. Pettitte’s start allowed the offense to click and score 12 runs, and the two sides fed off of each others energy for most of the game.
4. Game 1, 2001 ALCS: That’s right, 2 big wins in the same series. His first start gets the nod as slightly more impressive because it set the tone for the series. The Mariners were the heavy favorites to win the World Series after their magical regular season. Pettitte allowed just 3 hits and 1 run in 8 innings and struck out 7. He gave the staff some newfound confidence, and they allowed Seattle to score more than three runs just once in the 5-game set. Although the Yankees lost the World Series in 7 games, Pettitte more than did his share to get them there and keep them alive; he earned ALCS MVP honors for his two performances.
3. Game 5, 1996 World Series: In the midst of the Yankees’ late-90’s dynasty, they found themselves in a 2-0 hole in the 1996 World Series to the Atlanta Braves. After using extra innings to get back to a 2-2 tie, the team desperately needed a strong outing by Pettitte in the fifth game. He delivered with 8.1 innings of shutout baseball, allowing 5 hits and 3 walks. The Yankees won, took a 3-2 series lead, and won the title in 6 games. It was the second-longest playoff outing of his career, and the only time he pitched into the 9th innings without allowing a run.
2. Game 4, 1998 World Series: In another clincher, Pettitte yet again tossed a scoreless outing, this time against the San Diego Padres. While this series wasn’t much of a challenge for the pinstripes, they took it in just 4 games, the most important game obviously is still the clincher. It requires full concentration from each player, who can’t look forward to the champagne celebration afterward. The Yankees needed to do just that, as the game was deadlocked at 0 until the 6th, when they were able to scratch one run across. Pettitte shut down San Diego for 7 innings, and they rewarded him with 2 more runs in the top of the 8th to ensure his victory and a world championship. His final line: 7.1 innings, 5 hits, 3 walks, 4 K’s.
1. Game 2, 2003 World Series: In a series which they ultimately lost, Pettitte turned in the finest outing of his postseason career. After dropping the first game, they took the second game 6-1 thanks to a gem by number 46. He spun 8.2 innings of 1-run ball, and allowed just 6 hits. In fact, that run wasn’t even earned, and he came just one out away from his only complete-game playoff effort. Unfortunately, Jose Contreras had to spell him and get the final out after Pettitte threw 111 pitches in his first start of the series.
These highlights, among countless others, are what Yankees fans fondly remember about the slow-talking southpaw. It comes as no surprise that the day honoring him is one of the biggest events on the calendar so far this summer in the Bronx. It shouldn’t be long before he gets honored with another plaque-in Cooperstown.