Pettitte looms large in ALCS opener
Updated: Wednesday October 17, 2001 9:05 PM
SEATTLE (AP) -- Andy Pettitte was steady, not spectacular. He snuffed Seattle with finesse, not fastballs.
The boyish face, partly obscured in the late-afternoon shadows by a cap pulled down to the eyebrows, was darkened by stubble. But the eyes were bright and sharp, and so were the pitches.
Pettitte coolly pitched the Yankees into the lead in the ALCS, beating Seattle 4-2 in Wednesday's opener by allowing one run and three hits in eight innings and striking out seven.
"You try to get him fired up. You try to get him focused," catcher Jorge Posada said. "I didn't have to talk to him much today."
Just like last year, when he led New York to an 8-2 victory in Game 3, Pettitte put the Yankees in control by winning the Safeco Field opener.
With a biting curveball and cut fastball that snapped over the corners, he retired 23 of 26 batters, taking a no-hit bid into the fifth inning and preventing Seattle's superb hitters from getting untracked.
Quite different from the regular season, when Pettitte was 0-2 with an 8.03 ERA against the Mariners.
"I think our whole team just takes it to a different level once we get to the postseason," Pettitte said. "We have a confidence."
Pettitte's 9-5 in the postseason but it took time to develop the confidence. In his first World Series start, he was hammered for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings as Atlanta won the 1996 opener 12-1. In manager Joe Torre's words, Pettitte "got lit up pretty good."
"He thought he had to be something other than the pitcher he was during the course of the season," Torre recalled, "and he learned from that."
New York knows the key to Seattle is Ichiro Suzuki, the rookie sensation who had the most hits in the major leagues since 1930. Suzuki never saw first base against Pettitte, grounding out twice and striking out awkwardly on a pitch that bounced in the dirt.
"I just try to change his eye level and move the ball around," Pettitte said. "You're not going to keep him down, and I was very fortunate to get him out today."
Only twice did Seattle test Pettitte. Edgar Martinez's leadoff single and Mike Cameron's double put runners on second and third with one out in the fifth, waking the silent Seattle fans from their slumber.
With the Yankees still ahead 3-1 in the seventh, Bret Boone singled leading off. Pettitte then stuck out Martinez on a 3-2 pitch, hopping slightly on the mound in satisfaction.
Cameron followed with a grounder to third and Pettitte, cocked his left hand, waiting. When the Yankees completed the double play, he pumped his fist across his body in excitement.
"He just seems to keep his wits about him," Torre said. "In the postseason, it's so easy to get distracted with the fans, with the time between innings. But he has stood tall."
Pettitte, who has never pitched a complete game in 21 postseason starts, left in favor of Mariano Rivera at the start of the ninth. In 99 efficient pitches, he had dispatched the Mariners. Just like last year.
"He set the whole tone of the game," Posada said. "He kept guys off-balance."
Enough to put Seattle in a 1-0 hole.