NEW YORK -- Forgive Andy Pettitte for not having an acceptance speech. On Monday night, the Yankees' unassuming ace was named the MVP of the ALCS. Unfortunately for the assembled media, he didn't have anything close to a prepared statement.
|Pettitte has gone 10-5 with a 3.98 ERA during the postseason.
Of course, this makes complete and total sense. Pettitte is the prototypical team player, a man that would rather talk about any subject other than himself. Also, he had never won a major award, unless you count this season's designation as Father of the Year. In his sport, Pettitte has been satisfied to be part of the greater good, as opposed to a standout superstar.
"It's special for me. I'd be lying if I didn't say that," Pettitte said of his new award. "I'm not a pitcher that goes out and dominates games or strikes out a lot of hitters. I never expected to win anything like that."
That may be the case, but there are plenty of interested observers who would tell you that Pettitte has been cruising towards this award for the better part of five seasons.
Joe Torre loves to talk about Pettitte's steely resolve in the 1996 postseason, but the stats really speak for themselves. With the win on Monday night, Pettitte is tied for the second-most (five) in ALCS history. He has also won four-straight starts in the semifinal round.
Overall, during his career in the second season, Pettitte has gone 10-5 with a 3.98 ERA. While those numbers aren't exactly incredible, the win total puts him in outstanding company. The southpaw starter is now tied with Greg Maddux, Dave Stewart and Whitey Ford for the third-most playoff wins. More impressively, he stands only two behind John Smoltz and Tom Glavine for the all-time lead.
Pettitte is interviewed after being named MVP.
"It obviously feels great, and it gives me a great deal of confidence to go out there," Pettitte said. "I've struggled in a few of those games, but the team has rallied back to score some runs."
He may have struggled in seasons past, but he has been utterly dominant in this edition of the ALCS. In Game 1, Pettitte threw eight innings of one-run baseball, allowing only three hits over that span. New York won that game by a 4-2 final score, largely because of Pettitte's lights-out performance.
On Monday night, he wasn't as dominant, but he didn't have to be. His teammates staked him to a 5-0 lead in the first four innings, and the game got even more one-sided after that. At one point, the Yankees led 9-0 -- when Pettitte is on his game, that's obviously much more than he needs.
Eventually, he gave up three runs to the Mariners, after the game was out of hand. Even so, that did nothing to erase the way he pitched when the series could've gone either way.
"He's nails. That was basically the story," said Seattle starter Aaron Sele, who was on the losing end in both of Pettitte's starts. "He shut us down flat for two games. We're used to scoring runs and making things happen, and he just didn't allow us to do that."
Appropriately, Pettitte spread the credit around to his assembled teammates. He mentioned a few key defensive plays that helped swing the game in his favor.
For instance, he mentioned a play by Tino Martinez in the fourth inning. With one man on first base, Edgar Martinez sent a ball rocketing up the line. Instead of finding open field in front of it, the ball ended up in the webbing of the Yankee first baseman's mitt. After he caught it, he stepped on first base to erase the runner.
"Tino happened to be standing there -- the ball could've easily gone down the line," Pettitte said. "The defense played great tonight. I wasn't on -- I left some balls over the heart of the plate and I got away with some mistakes."
Well, nobody expected him to be perfect, even with his sterling success in seasons past. Torre, with all that he's accomplished in the past five seasons, knows he owes a debt of gratitude to Pettitte.
"(With) the fact that I had never been to the postseason as a player, I think I understood what he did in '96 was very special," Torre said. "That carried a lot of weight with me."
If that's the case, then Pettitte must be carrying a sumo-sized amount of weight for the Yankee skipper. He has come up big time and time again, helping his team to four world championships in five years. Now, with a chance for his fifth ring, Pettitte took a moment to analyze the situation.
"It's different now, because after you win a few championships, all of a sudden you go into the season expecting to win it," he said. "If you don't, it's going to be a dissapointment. I think everybody still realizes that we are the World Champions, and we have shown a lot of heart and determination to try to keep that."
Well said, Andy. Now, for future reference, would you mind working on a better acceptance speech?
Spencer Fordin is the site manager of Yankees.com.