Pitching Matchup: Pettitte (11-3) vs. Pavano (17-11)
NY: Jeter- SS, Granderson- CF, Teix- 1B, A-Rod- 3B, Cano- 2B, Swish- RF, Posada- C, Berkman- DH, Gardner- RF
Min: Span- CF, Hudson- 2B, Mauer- C, Young- LF, Thome- DH, Cuddyer- 1B, Kubel- RF, Valencia- 3B, Hardy- SS
3 Things To Watch For:
1) Andy's Command
Andy was having the great season he was before his injury because of impeccable command. He was throwing any pitch to any location at any count and hitters didn't have much for him. Since coming back from the injury, however, Pettitte's command has been his issue as in just 7.1 innings he has given up 19 hits and 9 earned runs. The control has been there, evidenced by just 2 walks to 9 Ks, but control and command are 2 different things. Control is the ability to throw a pitch in the strike zone; command is the ability to throw the pitch where you want it to go in the strike zone. Andy's last start was a sign that the command was starting to come back to him, as he didn't walk a batter and struck out 8 in 4 innings. If he can make the mechanical adjustments he's been talking about and get back to where he was earlier in the year, it could be a long night for the Twins. If he struggles and still can't find the command he needs to be successful, it could be a long one for the Yankes.
2) Joe's Hook
This goes hand-in-hand with Andy's command tonight, as it will be interesting to see how much lead Joe gives Andy if he struggles. We saw Dusty Baker remove his starter before the end of the 2nd inning yesterday when it was clear he didn't have it, so how long will Joe leave Andy out to battle and eat up innings if he's off his game? I would imagine Joe will let Andy try to work out of any serious trouble he gets into because that's his style. But if it gets ugly, just how ugly will depend on how quick Joe decides to take him out.
This point also has importance even if Andy is on his game. Because his last 2 outings were short, he still isn't all the way stretched out, only throwing 75 and 88 pitches in those 2 starts. If Andy is cruising, does Joe leave him out there for 90 pitches? 100? What's the cap on his pitch count, if there even is one?
(**Bonus Thing to Watch For: If Andy is out early, who does Joe turn to in the 'pen out of the trio of long relievers (A.J., Mitre, Moseley)? My money would be on Mitre.**)
3) Yanks' Approach vs. Pavano
Definitely worth watching because of Pavano's status as one of the most successful guys in baseball at pitching to contact and because of his past success against the Yankees since leaving (2.66 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 17 Ks in 20.1 IP over 3 outings).
Pavano can certainly be touched up, evidenced by his 227 hits allowed in 221 IP to the tune of a .266 BBA. But the other 2 numbers in that tripleslash against, the .300 OBP and .417 SLG, show where Pavano's success lies in not walking batters and limiting damage on the hits he gives up. His line against rises to .292/.325/.453 against lefties this year in 411 ABs so expect to see Lance Berkman and his 3-9 w/ 3 XBH in the lineup tonight, but what will that lineup do? Liriano tried to pitch against the Yankees' patience by throwing fastballs early to get ahead in the count, but Pavano doesn't have the zip on his heater than Liriano does. The best pitches the Yankees are going to get are going to be early in the count, so do they jump on Pavano early and take their hacks? Or take a strike or 2 and wait for him to make a mistake later in the count? Whatever the approach ends up being, keep an eye on the Twins' outfield defense behind Pavano, where Kubel and Young on the corners are just short of being disasters
Player to Watch: Andy Pettitte
It's all about Andy tonight. Despite the numbers he looked much better in his last start against Boston than in his first one back, and he's already beaten the Twins twice this year when they had Morneau in the lineup. It should be pretty easy to tell how Andy's feeling and how good his command is early by what he's throwing. If he's mixing pitches well and working both sides of the plate, chances are he's got it. If he's missing spots, falling behind in counts, and reverting to the fastball and the cutter a lot, then most likely he still doesn't have the feel for his stuff.
Take note of the Twins' approach against him at the plate tonight. My guess is they will be patient, test the waters to see what he has early, then attack the 2nd time through the lineup. I also wouldn't be surprised if we see Span or Hudson try to lay down a bunt or 2 to test that groin and get Andy moving off the mound. Because of the win last night the Yankees don't need Pettitte to be lights out tonight, just good enough. 5-6 innings of 2-3-run ball will suffice. Anything better than that and we're probably looking at a 2-0 Yankee lead coming back to New York.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Once again it's the ALDS and the Yankees are up on the Twins after coming back from an early deficit and crushing the hopes and dreams of their fans in the late innings. It's not quite the clinching game, but just like last year the Yanks have Andy Pettitte on the mound with a chance to shut down the Twins again and all but lock up the series. It really is the same old song and dance...
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