It was a seasonally warm 55 degree October night in front of a packed house in Yankee Stadium. Tino Martinez threw out the ceremonial first pitch, and the Yanks honored longtime fan Freddy (‘Freddy Sez’) Schuman before the game, who had died the day before at age 85. The series was tied 1-1, with the Yanks and Rangers splitting the first two games in Arlington. Game 3 of the 2010 ALCS, facing none other than the seemingly unbeatable Cliff Lee. Its about as pressure-packed as a situation can be, one where Andy seemed to find himself in the post season a million times before. Andy was battling back and groin injuries toward the end of the year, as if his aging body was sending him a message, but as a fan you still had confidence he would find a way to get it done. You’ve just seen him do it too many times before.
This time, Andy stumbled out of the gate. He gave up a single to center to Michael Young. Normally, that wouldn’t be much of an issue. But next up was 2010 MVP Josh Hamilton. Andy threw him his trademark pitch, a cut fastball on a 2-1 pitch that Josh deposited deep into the right field stands. It was just the 3rd HR Andy gave up to a left handed batter all season, the other two coming from the Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Pena.
“It was just a bad pitch by me,” Pettitte said. “At the time, you don’t think that’s going to win the ballgame.”
A less tough, less experienced pitcher might have let that first inning affect him, but not Andy. Pettitte has more starts (42) and more Wins (19) than any other pitcher in postseason history. He found his rhythm, settled in and retired 15 of the next 16 batters after the Hamilton HR. But the damage was done, and for all intents and purposes you could have turned the game off after the first inning. Cliff Lee was his usual, dominating self facing the Yanks in the post season. In in 8 innings pitched he gave up just 2 hits and a walk while striking out 13.
“Cliff was great tonight, to say the least,” Pettitte said. “He was just outstanding. You can’t say enough about what he did tonight in this ballpark. To be able to do what he did is pretty impressive.”
According to Brian Cashman, after the game was over Andy called him aside and told him “Don’t wait on me” if he had any plans to sign a pitcher this off season. Brian said that struck him as unusual. Andy has gone through an annual soul searching on whether or not to return every winter, but he never said anything like that to him before. It seems Andy knew which way he was leaning long before anyone else did.
He was acknowledged by a standing ovation, and — with the left-hander at age 38 — there is a possibility that it could have been Pettitte’s final Yankee Stadium moment.
“Sitting in the clubhouse, you kind of think about that,” Pettitte said. “But then there’s a lot of baseball to be played. And I feel real good about our team and about the club that we have.”
Recaps of the game the following day in newspapers and websites focused on how dominating Lee was, the way the Yankee bullpen imploded after Andy’s exit, and how impressive the Rangers rookie Closer Neftali Feliz looked. Yet the biggest story of the game, one we didn’t know at the time, was that it final game that Andy Pettitte would ever pitch.
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