Pettitte excited for Game 1 nod, set for challenge
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YORK -- The Yankees have yet to set their rotation for the American League Championship Series against the Tigers, but the one thing they do know is that Andy Pettitte will take the mound for Game 1 on Saturday night.
New York's veteran left-hander officially received word late Friday that he would get the call for the series opener on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, TBS). The move was somewhat of an obvious one for manager Joe Girardi, considering Pettitte is well rested and coming off an impressive AL Division Series outing against Baltimore in Game 2.
Following a year-long absence, this type of moment is exactly why Pettitte opted to come out of retirement to make another run at the World Series in New York.
"I came back to hopefully help this club get into this position, to help this pitching staff, to help take some of the stress off the other starters, and hopefully be able to give us quality starts whenever I take the mound," said Pettitte, who will oppose Detroit's Doug Fister in Game 1.
"It's nice to feel like I have been able to do that, whenever I have been able to be healthy and get out there. So [I'm] excited about the opportunity to be in this series, obviously to move along."
Key stat: Dominated A's in ALDS, throwing seven innings of two-run ball with eight strikeouts.
Key stat: Has allowed three runs or fewer in 10 of his last 11 postseason starts.
At Yankee Stadium
2012: N/A Career: 1 GS, 0-1, 3.86 ERA
2012: 7 GS, 4-1, 1.85 ERA Career: 35 GS, 17-8, 3.80 ERA
Against this opponent
2012: 1 GS, 2.84 ERA Career: 4 GS, 1-2, 5.18 ERA
2012: N/A Career:23 GS, 10-9, 3.66 ERA
Loves to face: Curtis Granderson, 1-for-6, 1 HR, 4 K Hates to face: Derek Jeter, 5-for-13, 1 2B, 2 RBIs
Loves to face: Gerald Laird, 2-for-10, 3 K Hates to face: Jhonny Peralta, 6-for-16, 3 HR, nine RBIs
Why he'll win: Has been a different pitcher since the All-Star break -- is 8-4 with a 2.67 ERA and 97:24 K/BB over 16 starts.
Why he'll win: Hasn't lost at home since his first start of the season, May 13.
Pitcher beware: Fister went 1-1 with a 6.52 ERA in two starts against New York in the 2011 ALDS and didn't last more than five innings in either game.
Pitcher beware: Tigers hitters have had success vs. Pettitte, hitting .359 with a 1.014 OPS against him in 92 career at-
Bottom line: Tigers have won six of the last eight games he has started.
Bottom line: Is the winningest pitcher in postseason history.
Pettitte stepped aside following the 2010 season despite posting a 3.28 ERA in 129 innings. At the time, he had nothing left to prove after winning five World Series in New York and becoming the game's all-time winningest postseason pitcher with 19 victories.
But after sitting out a full season, Pettitte realized the desire to pitch remained. He had several conversations with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman in the offseason and eventually signed a one-year contract late in Spring Training.
The season didn't go exactly as planned for Pettitte, who suffered a fractured left ankle June 27 against the Indians. That limited him to just 12 starts, but a return in mid-September gave him just enough time to prepare for the postseason.
Now Pettitte will be tasked with giving the Yankees an early advantage in the ALCS. It won't be easy, considering he'll be matched up against two of the most feared hitters in the game -- Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder -- but it's the type of situation that Pettitte relishes.
"He is just a great hitter," Pettitte said when asked specifically about Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown this season. "Obviously he doesn't have a whole lot of holes. He's got power to the opposite field, and he's got obviously pull power. So when you have got a guy like that, he's tough to get out.
"He will be a big key. To try to shut him down -- I don't know if you can shut him down -- but try to keep him from doing too much damage in the series, and that's key to us winning the series, that's for sure."
Pettitte will take the mound at Yankee Stadium looking to improve an already impressive postseason resume. He is 19-11 with a 3.83 ERA in 43 career starts and is coming off a strong outing against Baltimore, which saw him allow just three runs while striking out five in seven innings.
Who follows Pettitte on the mound is somewhat up in the air. Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda pitched after Pettitte in the ALDS and could be a possibility for Game 2 on Sunday, but that would require using the veteran right-hander on three days' rest -- while the same could be said for CC Sabathia as a candidate for Game 3 in Detroit.
Those potential concerns would become less of an issue if Pettitte can start the series off on the right foot for New York. That would continue a recent trend which saw the starters go 2-1 with a sparkling 2.04 ERA while striking out 32 and limiting opponents to a .193 average in the ALDS.
Pettitte, who hasn't faced Detroit since 2008, is hoping for just more of the same.
"Obviously very impressed," Pettitte said of the Yanks' staff. "CC, you can't say enough about what he has done ... Postseason is tough on the road, pitching in those games and to do what he did, make the pitches that he did when he was in trouble in Baltimore, to get us into the ninth inning like he did.
"Everyone, Kuroda did an unbelievable job. Phil [Hughes] threw the ball great. I felt I was able to get us deep into the game and give us a chance to win ... Runs were hard to come by in this first series, and hopefully we can carry that over right into the next series here."