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Monday, October 18, 2010
Andy Pettitte has beaten aces before

By Richard Durrett

Cliff Lee sure looks unbeatable right now, making the Rangers favorites in tonight's Game 3 of the ALCS. But the Yankees have beaten tough pitchers before in the postseason. And they've done it with Andy Pettitte on the mound. Mark Simon (of ESPN Stats & Information fame) put together a look at some of Pettitte's memorable duels. You can read the entire post here, but Simon focuses in on Pettitte's Game 5 win over Atlanta'a John Smoltz in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series.

Here's part of Simon's post:
Smoltz entered that game as the closest thing we know to Cliff Lee. He was 9-1 with a 2.35 ERA career in postseason play. In that 1996 postseason, he started with four straight wins, in which he allowed four earned runs in 30 innings. That included a 12-1 drubbing of the Yankees and Pettitte in Game 1 of the series at Yankee Stadium.

Pettitte at that point was a postseason pup, far from the pitcher who now has 19 career postseason wins, most of anyone. In five postseason starts, he was 1-1 with a 6.16 ERA, with that rout against the Braves his most recent effort.

The Yankees scratched out a run against Smoltz in the fourth inning, partly thanks to an error by the Braves centerfielder, four-time Gold Glove winner Marquis Grissom, which led to an RBI double by Cecil Fielder.

The Braves threatened to match the score in every inning the rest of the night. Timely double plays wiped out threats in the fourth and sixth innings. A caught stealing erased trouble in the fifth.

Pettitte survived a Derek Jeter error to strand a man in the seventh and persevered to get through the eighth inning after a Grissom two-out hit.

The ninth inning was one of the defining innings in Yankees history, with John Wetteland replacing Pettitte after Chipper Jones led off with a double and advanced to third base when Fred McGriff's groundout was speared by Tino Martinez.

The tying run would stay 90 feet away when Javy Lopez grounded to third, and then after an intentional walk to Ryan Klesko, Luis Polonia's fly ball to right center was chased down by a sprinting Paul O'Neill. The Yankees had a 3-games-to-2 lead in a series they would take two days later back in the Bronx.

What did it take to beat the unbeatable? It took Pettitte pitching one of the best games of his life -- 8 1/3 scoreless innings on the road against the defending champs.

Maybe that gives the Yankees some hope.