MINNEAPOLIS -- For the 14th time in his 16 major league seasons, the New York Yankees will hand Andy Pettitte the baseball with the expectation that he will win Game 2 of a postseason series for them.
And their expectation is well-founded; Pettitte's record in the second game of a playoff series is 6-3 with four no-decisions, two of which the Yankees won. So for all the speculation about who would start Game 2 of this year's ALDS against the Minnesota Twins -- and by extension a Game 5, if necessary, on full rest next Tuesday -- there really should never have been any doubt.
"Andy has been here so many times that he makes you feel pretty good," manager Joe Girardi said.
"Obviously, the more you're in these games, you know, the more comfortable you get with it," Pettitte said. "But the experience isn't going to help you if you can't find your stuff. If I don't locate and I don't get the ball where I want it to be, no matter how much experience I have, I am going to get knocked around probably."
Since returning from the disabled list on Sept. 19 after missing two months with a strain of the left groin, Pettitte has had a difficult time finding that good stuff he had prior to the injury.
He pitched well in his first game back -- a six-inning, one-run stint in which he held the Orioles to just three hits. But the next time out he failed to get out of the fourth inning, allowing seven runs on 10 hits to the Red Sox, and afterward reported experiencing some back stiffness during the game.
As a result, his next start was pushed back two days, and then delayed one day more due to a rainout. When he finally got back on a mound for the first game of a doubleheader at Boston on Oct. 2, Pettitte was lifted one batter into the fifth inning after allowing three runs and nine hits and throwing 88 pitches, the most since his return.
"I would have loved to get my pitch count up to 100 or so," Pettitte said. "That was disappointing and a little frustrating."
As was having to cut short what had started out as the best season of his career. At the time of his injury, Pettitte was 11-2 with a team-best 2.88 ERA. When he takes the mound Thursday evening against the Twins, facing old teammate Carl Pavano, he and the Yankees will be relying more on Pettitte's past than his recent form.
"There is no doubt something different about pitching in a postseason game," Pettitte said. "I don't know if mentally it's a different feel but it just seems as if the game is a little different as far as your focus, just the way you zone in on everything. I guess the magnitude of the game makes everything a little different for you."
A little different, and yet the same as it has almost always been for Pettitte in this kind of a game in October, the Yankees hope.