Thursday, June 17, 2010

Game 66: Old Man

Andy Pettitte takes the mound tonight for the first time since last Friday and he finds himself a year older, having completed his thirty eighth revolution of the sun on Tuesday. Originally, Pettitte was to square off against Jamie Moyer tonight, but the Phillies decided to shuffle their rotation earlier in the week, starting Moyer last night and pushing Kyle Kendrick to tonight.

That of course robs us of a whole host of paint by number story lines for the game, as at some point since his return to the Bronx more than three years ago, the veteran Pettitte has officially graduated to crafty lefty status, and veteran lefties don't come any craftier than the 47 year old Moyer.

Tempting as the Pettitte-Moyer comparisons may be, in truth the two have little in common other than their handedness and their relatively advanced ages. Pettitte reached the Majors as a 23 year old and virtually immediately presented himself as a front of the rotation workhorse. Moyer debuted at the same age, but scuttled through six seasons, four organizations, and several stints as a minor leaguer (including the majority of 1991, the entirety of 1992, and the start of 1993), before finally establishing himself as a 30 year old number five starter on the 1993 Orioles. As a point of comparison, by age 30 Pettitte had logged nearly 1,500 Major League innings and appeared in five World Series.

But as two of the three oldest starting pitchers in Major League Baseball and two of the three with more 3000 career innings pitched, the comparisons are inevitable. And as Pettitte's late career renaissance produces his best season in at least five years and a likely All-Star appearance, it's tempting to look at Moyer and see a guy who made his only All-Star appearance and had arguably his best season at age 40 in 2003 and has won 101 games since.

Of course, Pettitte's pitching arsenal is a little flashier than Moyer's slow-slower-slowest fastball, cutter, change routine, but it's tempting to look at Pettitte's repeated Houdini acts in pitching himself into and out of jams over the past few years and wonder why he couldn't continue to pull it off for another five or eight years. But considering that he's seriously contemplated retirement in each of the previous four off-seasons, a Moyer-esque forties just doesn't seem to be in the cards for Pettitte.

Be that as it may, of far greater to concern to Pettitte and the Yankees tonight is the rubber game against the Phillies. After improbably knocking around Roy Halladay on Tuesday night, the combination of a clunker from A.J. Burnett and Moyer's best Gandalf the White routine last night left the series tied at one. It seems as if Pettitte finds himself in more than his share of these rubber games, but he hasn't pitched a true rubber game since the season's opening series. He tossed six innings of one run ball in Boston that night, but didn't factor in the decision as the Yanks won in extra innings. He last start before that came at Yankee Stadium, in Game Six of the World Series, when he closed out the Phillies. Here's hoping he can pitch a lot like Moyer last night, stymie the Phillie bats, and close out a successful series against them once again.

Old man look at my life
I'm a lot like you were
Old man look at my life
I'm a lot like you were

[Song Notes: From his 1972 album Harvest, Neil Young wrote "Old Man" as a tribute to the old rancher who take care of his Broken Arrow Ranch in northern California. The studio recording featured both James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt]


Alex Rodriguez is in the lineup for the second straight night and remains the DH. After catching for just the second time in a month, Jorge Posada gets the night off.
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Brett Gardner LF
Francisco Cervelli C
Ramiro Pena 3B

LHP Andy Pettitte

Shane Victorino CF
Chase Utley 2B
Placido Polanco 3B
Ryan Howard 1B
Jayson Werth RF
Raul Ibanez LF
Ben Francisco DH
Carlos Ruiz C
Wilson Valdez SS

RHP Kyle Kendrick

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