Alyssa Milano might be the only other entity that regrets a four-year relationship with Carl Pavano more than the Yankees. Granted, the beloved Middle School crush of my age group wasn’t with the man George King of the Post dubbed the “American Idle” as long as the Yankees, but neither relationship was successful for the parties on Pavano’s arm. For Yankee haters, the thought of Pavano dominating the Yankees after he stole $39.99 million from the team from 2005-2008, spreading 26 starts, pitching 145 2/3 innings and amassing a 9-8 record and more ridiculous excuses for landing on the DL, is sublime. For the rest of us, well, the nausea hasn’t subsided.
Somewhere down South, a grinning Pat Jordan is polishing off a gun for Alex.
The Yankees’ saving grace, as it has been in seemingly every Game 2 of every playoff series in which he’s appeared as a Yankee since 2003, is Andy Pettitte. Pettitte won Game 2 of every series in ’03. He won the clinching game in every series of last year’s World Series run. He represents the championships, reliability, leadership, and stability in the rotation.
But he also represents the age of this Yankee team. At 38, Pettitte has not shown the ageless superhuman qualities of his bullpen colleague Mariano Rivera. Thursday night will mark only Pettitte’s fourth start since coming off the disabled list. Pettitte admitted his success in Baltimore in his return was based on adrenaline. His next two starts — both against Boston — didn’t feature the command he displayed in that first outing. Will the adrenaline of the postseason, the knowledge of what it takes to win in these circumstances, especially now that he’s been bolstered to a 1-0 lead, be enough to get by?
With all due respect to Banter colleague Hank Waddles, Pavano’s presence on the mound for the Twins has nothing to do with audacity. In fact, there’s precedent for the possibility of him dominating the Yankees Thursday night. Pavano allowed four runs and held the Yankees to a .224 BAA in his two starts against them during the ’09 regular season. In four career postseason appearances (three against the Yankees), Pavano has an 8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a 0.95 WHIP, and has allowed just 22 hits in 26 1/3 IP. Pavano started Game 4 of the ’03 World Series — the infamous “Jeff Weaver Game” — and held the Yankees to one run in eight innings of the pivotal contest. Last year, Pavano and Pettitte engaged in a great duel last year in Game 3 of the ALDS; what proved to be the final game ever played at the Metrodome. Pavano made two bad pitches in his seven innings of work. They resulted in solo home runs by Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada in the seventh inning. Pettitte, meanwhile, also pitched into the seventh, holding the Twins to just three hits in 6 1/3 innings, and he struck out seven. Pavano was a hard-luck loser. A step up from the first-class loser he was as a Yankee.
Spin forward to Thursday’s Game 2, given the current state of affairs with the two starting pitchers, the edge goes to Minnesota (Pavano’s 4.85 ERA since August 1 notwithstanding). Groin injuries can get reaggravated very easily. If there’s a Burnett or Meat Tray sighting within the first four innings, you can almost guarantee a loss for the Yankees.
A quality start from Pettitte will go a long way toward answering not only the questions posed above, but the broader questions regarding the viability of the Yankees’ playoff rotation behind CC Sabathia. I have to see it to believe it, though.
Prediction: Twins 5, Yankees 2