- Andrew Marchand, ESPNNewYork.com
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BALTIMORE -- The last time Andy Pettitte pitched a playoff game against the Baltimore Orioles, Eddie Murray was the DH, Bobby Bonilla was the right fielder and Brady Anderson was the center fielder. It was 16 years ago.
A year ago, Pettitte threw out a ceremonial first pitch prior to a Yankees playoff game, having finally joined Murray, Bonilla and Anderson in retirement.
Tonight, he will fire the most important pitches for the Yankees. It is a testament to Pettitte that all these years later the expectations are still the same -- a solid start.
The reason Pettitte has been able to perform so well is because of his ability, personality and opportunity. Pettitte has elite talent, which is why there will be a Hall of Fame discussion about him when he's finally done for good. Like Derek Jeter, he has not been overwhelmed by the big moments. And when he throws his first pitch Monday, it will be his 43rd postseason start, which is almost a season-and-a-half worth of games -- and more appearances than anyone else in baseball history, due in part to the extra playoff rounds.
The 40-year-old Pettitte is different from the 24-year-old Pettitte. Joe Girardi, who caught him then and manages him now, talks about the added pitches -- especially the changeup. Back then, he was really limited to a four-seam fastball, a cutter and a curveball.
"He's just matured," Girardi said.
While Pettitte is a more than reliable choice for Game 2, we tend to romanticize success. Pettitte hasn't always been perfect. In his first postseason start, in the 1995 ALDS against Seattle, Pettitte wasn't very good, giving up four runs and nine hits in what eventually was a 7-5 win for Mariano Rivera and the Yankees.
In Pettitte's first World Series start in 1996, Pettitte thought he ruined the Yankees' chances by allowing seven runs in 2 1/3 innings. Pettitte felt like he blew the Series, only to come back in Game 5 and beat John Smoltz 1-0 in one of the most memorable games for that Yankees dynasty.
Pettitte is not done yet. Not only he is ready for this postseason, he sounds like a guy who will want to come back next season.
"It's just going to be really a matter of if I feel like it's something I want to do again," Pettitte said. "I know one thing. I know the competition and the desire to compete is still there, and I don't feel like I kind of got that itch out from the 70 innings or so that I threw this year. I was expecting to do a little bit more work than that. But we'll see."
In his previous playoff start here in 1996, during the Jeffrey Maier series, Pettitte won Game 5, going eight innings and giving up only two runs.
"It was a long time ago," Pettitte said. "So I don't remember a whole lot about it."
He will take a repeat performance, though.
ON DECK: The Yankees and the Orioles in Game 2 at 8:07 ET tonight. Pettitte (5-4, 2.87) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (12-11, 4.02).
IN THE HOLE: Mark Simon will have a W2W4 and we will be updating you all day and into the night.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Who is your favorite Andy Pettitte memory?