There's an oft asked question that bounces around MLB fans every season. Who would you want pitching if (fill in the blank)?
Today I fill the blank with 'the Yankees lost the day before.' My answer is always Andy Pettitte.
Facing a three-game sweep at the hands of the Orioles, the Yankees sent Andy Pettitte to the hill. Seven innings of four-hit shutout baseball later the Yanks are up 4-0.
In spite of a wide-eyed, speech-stifling run surrendered by Joba Chamberlain, the top of the ninth saw Derek Jeter (who else?) put an exclamation point on the match with three-run double.
It put Mariano out of the save category, but he'd get his work in anyway.
On the surface it looks like your typical Yankees offensive explosion that won the game, but inning by inning it seemed far from that.
It started as a real pitchers duel at Camden Yards.
Pettitte and Trachsel traded doughnuts through the first three frames.
In the fourth, the Yanks broke through with two runs, not via the long ball, but with back-to-back doubles by A-Rod and Matsui, increasing that vital RISP stat.
After picking up his 10th RBI, A-Rod left the game with what would later be called a day-to-day strained quad.
Later the Yanks looked like they were going to make a statement. They had Trachsel on the ropes, with one out and loaded bags in the top of the sixth, but rally-killing Jason Giambi gave Trachsel exactly what he needed a double play.
[Is it a coincidence that GIAMBI and GIDP both start with "GI"? There's an acronym in there somewhere, I just know it.]
In the bottom half of the sixth, Giambi turned a picked-off Brain Roberts into a runner on second, with a throw so bad even MASN would only replay it once.
Roberts would make it to third on what was scored as a wild pitch.
However, a good throw/catch at third would've had him. Only a so-far bulletproof Pettitte ended the threat, battling back from a 3-0 count to strike out Markakis.
In the top of the seventh, Johnny Damon's second homer of the season, a two-run shot, gave Pettitte some breathing room, extending the Yanks to a 4-0 lead.
After an uncharacteristic Joba gave up a run on two hits while recording no outs, Brian Bruney came on to restore order and hand the game off to Mo. But not before Jeter's three-run two bagger sealed the deal.
The overall result was positive.
It's just a "W" in the same fashion that ugly, blowout losses are just “Ls.”
Hopefully, the Yanks, as a team, can take the right cues from the performances of Pettitte, A-Rod, Matsui, and Jeter.
True it's just a "W," but how the "W" came about will be vital on this long road to October.