Redemption, thy name is Pettitte.
As you’re likely aware, today is the one-year anniversary of Mariano Rivera recording career save No. 602. On Sept. 19, 2011 – a game I was lucky enough to be at as a ticketholder – the Yankees beat the Twins 6-4 to give Mo the record; two days later, they swept a doubleheader against the Rays to clinch the AL East, and Mo only recorded one more save that September.
Flash forward 366 days, and while Mo won’t be on the mound, his fellow hurler from the Core Four will, and he is tasked with a massive undertaking.
It has been exactly 12 weeks since Andy Pettitte walked off the mound at Yankee Stadium with a fractured ankle, courtesy of a Casey Kotchman line drive in the top of the fifth inning of the Bombers’ 5-4 win over Cleveland.
The Yankees won that game, and when they went to sleep that night they had a five game lead over Baltimore in the AL East.
Now, 84 days and some ebb and flow later, it’s up to Pettitte to give the Yankees a chance to win this afternoon – because if they don’t, they’ll go into tonight’s doubleheader finale in a place they haven’t been since June 10: second place.
Baltimore’s marathon 18-inning win over Seattle, which ended shortly before 4 a.m. ET Wednesday morning, pulled the Orioles into a virtual first-place tie with the Bombers; New York has two games in hand, which will be evened out as they play three vs. Baltimore’s one in the next 36 hours, and even a slip-up this afternoon would drop them out of first place for at least a few hours.
For the 40-year-old lefty, the return comes about 18 hours later than originally scheduled thanks to Mother Nature, but manager Joe Girardi wasn’t worried about the extra layoff causing any jitters or hiccups today.
“For some guys, young guys, it’s probably more difficult (to wait) than it would be for a seasoned veteran, but that’s not Andy’s personality; since he got hurt, he couldn’t wait to get back out there,” Girardi said in his pre-game press conference Wednesday. “I’m sure it was a little difficult, but I don’t worry about the way he’ll handle it today.”
As the proverb goes, good things come to those who wait…and since it’s been 12 weeks already, what’s another day, right?
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES