NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — After 23 games, the Yankees can finally say they own the edge on Baltimore.
New York took the deciding Game 5 of its AL division series against the Orioles, ending the club’s season-long stalemate against Buck Showalter’s gritty bunch.
But the celebration was short-lived. The Detroit Tigers await in Game 1 of the ALCS on Saturday night.
“We’ll enjoy this one for a few minutes,” shortstop Derek Jeter said after Friday’s 3-1 win, “and then get ready for tomorrow.”
The Yankees rode a complete game effort from ace CC Sabathia, who wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning to preserve the win.
Andy Pettitte hopes to ride the wave of good pitching — and he’s a guy who knows a little something about playoff success.
MLB’s all-time record holder with 19 postseason victories, the veteran left-hander will get the ball against Detroit at Yankee Stadium in the championship series opener.
“I couldn’t say I feel any more pressure,” Pettitte said Friday night. “Look, we have to have a team effort. We have to have our starters throwing the ball well or we’re not going to win this series, probably. I feel like I am able to simplify it to that extent. I definitely need to give us a good start and get the series off to a good first game, that’s for sure.”
Getting the better of the Tigers’ big two hitters — Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera — won’t be easy. And Pettitte knows it.
Especially daunting is Cabrera, baseball’s first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
“He will be a big key,” said Pettitte. “To try to shut him down — I don’t know if you can shut him down — but try to keep him from doing too much damage in the series, and that’s key to us winning the series, that’s for sure.”
“Everybody knows the great season he’s had,” said outfielder Curtis Granderson. “But this isn’t the first time he’s had a great season. He’s been great his whole career, and as soon as he got to the Tigers, he never stopped.”
Right-hander Doug Fister will toe the slab for the Tigers, who sent the Yankees to an early offseason in last year’s ALDS.
“We get to get our revenge,” said Yankees catcher Russell Martin. “I’m excited about that.”
Pettitte, who finished the regular season 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 12 starts, can’t exactly relate. He retired after the 2010 season, then stunned Yankees fans with his decision to return in 2012.
Pettitte’s comeback party was put on hold when a comebacker fractured his left ankle in late June. He returned to the rotation on September 19 and has been a dependable contributor since.
Would you expect anything less?
“I came back to help this club get into this position,” said Pettitte. “To help this pitching staff, to help take some of the stress off the other starters and hopefully be able to give us quality starts whenever I take the mound.”
Pettitte recently hinted he may give it another go in 2013. But first things first — Game 1. Detroit. The Bronx.
A solid start would go a long way toward the Yankees’ ultimate goal of World Series title No. 28 — not to mention Pettitte’s sixth ring.
Of course, to a graybeard with 43 career postseason starts, it’ll be just another day at the office.
“Just hope you can get out there and make quality pitches,” he said. “Nothing different, you know, just try to make quality pitches.”
What’s your prediction for Game 1? Let us know in the comments below!