Andy Pettitte returns to the mound tonight, having been skipped due to shoulder fatigue following his start 10 days ago. Pettitte has thrown two bullpens since then, reportedly pain free. He does seem to have some lingering concern that the shoulder could cause an early exit for him tonight, as the comments he made to the media following his Friday bullpen session seemed to vary by writer. Thankfully, Sergio Mitre took one for the team and did an excellent job in five innings relief of Joba Chamberlain yesterday, leaving the Yankees with their full bullpen to back Pettitte tonight.
Pettitte is a pitcher with a lot of pride, and as we've examined earlier this year he's also a pitcher with an incentive laden contract that rewards him with each start he makes. Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman reported last week that Pettitte begged the Yankees to let him pitch through his shoulder issues. Given the source, I'm not sure if that's true or not. Pettitte's been around long enough to know that the post-season is what matters, and that given some of the other issues in the Yankee rotation right now, a lot is riding on his left shoulder.
In two starts against the Angels this year, Pettitte has been pretty bad, allowing 11 ER and 22 baserunners in 10 innings of work. His last start against them came in the disastrous pre-All-Star break series, after which both Pettitte and the Yankees as a whole went on a very impressive run.
Joe Saunders will go for the Halos. The lefty is 13-7 with a 4.75 ERA and 1.46 WHIP on the year. He's also allowed 27 longballs, tied for second most in the AL. He faced the Yankees once this year, in the July series, and allowed 11 baserunners and surrendered 5 ER in 5 innings of work. He did not factor into the decision. That start included, Saunders is carrying a 5.31 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, and .864 OPS against in his last 11 starts, yet he's 5-2 and the Angels 7-4 in those games.
As Jay touched on earlier today and Ben Kabak at River Ave. Blues also pointed out, much will be made these next three days of the Yankees' struggles against the Angels. With home field still up for grabs, the media will place emphasis upon these games that will likely go beyond their actual importance. Nevertheless, the numbers aren't pretty. The Yankees are 13-23 against the Angels over the last four seasons, and are 4-14 at The Big A. The Angels, particularly in their home whites, have been a big thorn in the Yankees' side for a number of years now. Nothing that happens these next three days will be life or death, but it would sure be nice for the Yankees to erase the memory of that awful July series and take steps towards ensuring that a potential ALCS match-up will have no more than three games played in Orange County.
Does it make you want to scream?
Did you ever like a bad dream?
Sometimes life is obscene.
My angels, my devils, my thorn in my pride