After coming out of retirement and dealing with a lengthy recovery from injury, the New York Yankees' Andy Pettitte was hoping to have another opportunity to do what he's done countless times before, earn a victory in the postseason.
The 40-year-old left-hander will get that chance Monday night and will try to help his club take a decisive lead in its AL division series against a team he's beaten more than any other over his career, the Baltimore Orioles.
While he's been undoubtedly helped by an expanded postseason, Pettitte has also done enough to beat out his contemporaries for the all-time lead in playoff wins with 19, four more than John Smoltz. His 42 starts are seven more than second-place Tom Glavine.
It appeared that he was done adding to those totals after retiring in February 2011, but the Yankees signed him to a minor league contract in March and brought him up from the minors two months later.
The 245-game winner went 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 12 starts this season but missed nearly three months after taking a line drive off his left leg during a start against Cleveland on June 27 and breaking his fibula near the junction with the ankle.
"A lot of ups and downs, a roller coaster for sure, but in the end we got to where we want to be, we're in the position we wanted to be in," he said. "This is what I was hoping to have the opportunity to do, and so that's exciting for me personally. All in all, it's been a good year so far. Hopefully we can continue to do this."
Pettitte went 2-1 with a 1.62 ERA in three starts after returning on Sept. 19 and will try to continue that success while pitching in a familiar spot. The left-hander has started 15 times in the second game of a playoff series, eight more than in any other contest.
He's won in four of his last six such outings and will try to add another victory against a club he's dominated over his career. Pettitte is 28-6 in 42 starts and two other appearances against Baltimore, including two in the 1996 AL championship series. He's also 15-2 with a 2.97 ERA over his last 21 starts versus the Orioles and has won seven consecutive decisions.
If he can extend that streak, the Yankees will head back home with a 2-0 lead and have a chance to sweep Wednesday. They are in that position thanks to a late outburst in Sunday's series opener.
Russell Martin hit a tiebreaking homer off major league saves leader Jim Johnson in the ninth inning and the Yankees scored four more times after that in a 7-2 win.
Ichiro Suzuki went 2 for 5 with two RBIs in his first postseason contest in 11 years and extended his hit streak in Baltimore to 20 games.
"A well-pitched game on both sides, and we were fortunate enough to get to a very, very good closer tonight. Our guys put some good at?bats on him, but it was an outstanding game," New York manager Joe Girardi said.
In his playoff debut, Wei-Yin Chen will try to help the Orioles bounce back and end his recent struggles.
The rookie left-hander from Taiwan, who made his major league debut against the Yankees at Camden Yards on April 10, wound up being a pleasant surprise for Baltimore as he was the only player with double-digit victories (12) this season.
Chen, though, was 0-4 with a 5.05 ERA over his final six regular season starts, including back-to-back losses to New York to open September. He matched a career high by giving up seven runs over 4 2-3 innings in the latter of those Sept. 7 in Baltimore.
Chen is 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA in four starts against the Yankees but was 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in the first two matchups. He yielded two runs and four hits over seven innings during a 5-2 home win May 15.
"It's been a great year to me and to the Orioles, too, and I'm so lucky to be here. I want to give everything to the fans and everything to the city of Baltimore, not only for me," he said through an interpreter.
While he's a MLB postseason newcomer, Chen made 10 starts in the Japanese playoffs and two in the 2008 Olympics for Chinese Taipei.