NEW YORK (AP) — Andy Pettitte pulled his cap down low, peeked over his glove into home plate and gave yet another gutsy postseason performance.
Too bad for him this one came against Cliff Lee.
Making his record 42nd postseason start, Pettitte made one mistake to Josh Hamilton in seven vintage innings, but Lee was nearly unhittable and the Texas Rangers roughed up the New York Yankees’ bullpen in an 8-0 win Monday night in Game 3 of the American League championship series.
“Literally, it hurts,” Pettitte said of the pitch to Hamilton that gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the first inning. “You wish he would have fouled it off or something because I threw probably a couple, two or three other pitches the whole game where I didn’t want to, and it ended up costing a ballgame.”
The 38-year-old Pettitte missed two months with a groin injury this season and made only three starts in September. Still he’s been his steady self this October. He pitched seven solid innings to beat Minnesota in Game 2 of the division series, and was even better Monday.
Pettitte kept the Yankees close, limiting the powerful Rangers’ lineup to two runs and five hits without walking a batter. He is lined up to start Game 7 in Texas, if it’s necessary.
“Andy made it tough on us today,” Texas third baseman Michael Young said.
Always seemingly overshadowed by a bigger personality on the Yankees — Roger Clemens, David Wells, CC Sabathia — or underrated in a matchup as he was entering this start against Lee, Pettitte has repeatedly come through in big games.
Unassuming, polite — and fiercely competitive on the mound — he earned his reputation as stalwart in the postseason by outdueling Atlanta’s John Smoltz in a 1-0 victory in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series as a 24-year-old.
The big left-hander, who lives in Texas, was trying to become the first pitcher in postseason history to reach 20 wins. Instead he picked up his 10th loss — New York lost for just the 16th time in his 42 postseason starts.
Pettitte was 5-0 with a 2.88 ERA in his last nine postseason starts coming in and in his deceptive awe-shucks manner relished the underdog status leading up to his start against Lee, who began the night 6-0 in seven October starts with a 1.44 ERA.
“He stood up tall. You know, Cliff was just better as far as keeping runs off the board,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I think everybody in baseball knows what he is when it comes down to this time of year, and he certainly did his job.”
After getting Elvis Andrus to bounce back to the mound for the game’s first out, Pettitte got ahead 0-2 to Young. But Young fought back to a full count and singled to right-center. Pettite then left a 2-1 cutter up a bit in the zone to the left-handed Hamilton, who reached out and pulled the pitch off the end of his bat into the first few rows of seats in the short right-field porch.
Pettitte, 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA in the regular season, broke nearly as many bats with his wicked slider as hits he allowed the remainder of his outing.
“Andy gave us the game we expected,” shortstop Derek Jeter said. “He pitched well.”
In the third, Pettitte threw his hands up in disgust when Young fouled off a two-strike pitch, an at-bat that ended in an infield single to shortstop and ended a stretch of seven consecutive outs. He then retired eight straight before Young singled again. Jeff Francoeur added a two-out single to third base in the seventh.
Pettitte got Bengie Molina to ground out to third baseman Alex Rodriguez for the final out of the seventh, gave a hearty shout and left to loud cheers from the Yankee Stadium crowd trailing 2-0.
With a one-year deal, Pettitte will likely spend the offseason, as he has the past few seasons, deciding if he wants to pitch again. But he didn’t put too much thought into that Monday.
“When I’m out of the game, sitting in the clubhouse, you kind of think about that,” Pettitte said. “But then there’s a lot of baseball to be played, left. And I feel real good about our team and about the club that we have.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.