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Pettitte the postseason poster boy

NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte's the one who's been here the whole time.

Mike Mussina was signed as a free agent. Roger Clemens came in a trade with the Blue Jays. David Wells was traded for Clemens, then reacquired as a free agent.

Lefthander Pettitte is the only member of New York's Fab Four who's home-grown. He's got four championship rings. And last night he made his 29th postseason start, beating the Florida Marlins, 6-1, to send the Series to the Citrus State, tied at a game apiece.

It was Pettitte's 13th career postseason win, tying him with John Smoltz for the all-time record (bogus in one way because there are so many more playoffs now, but a record nonetheless). Florida managed only six hits off Pettitte in 8 2/3 innings and the run was unearned. He walked one and struck out seven. Seventy of his 111 pitches were strikes. It was surgical.

"For me, personally, it was a very special night," he said. "To stand out on that mound and have a chance to pitch a shutout in the World Series -- I wish I'd been able to do it. This place is special. All the experience I've been able to have here in the playoffs."

The man with the death stare from beneath a cap bill pulled down to his eyes, Pettitte is New York's latter-day Whitey Ford. He's bigger than the Chairman of the Board and throws harder than Ford ever did. On a staff with big egos, big wallets, and at least one Hall of Famer, he's the one they want pitching the big games.

"Andy has been under the radar in the eight years I've been here," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "There's always been someone a little more high-profile than Andy and he likes it that way."

The Yankees have lost the first game of all three playoff series this fall and each time Pettitte has won Game 2. Last night's was his 11th consecutive win after a Yankee loss.

"Someone asked me if it surprised me, and I said `no,' " said Torre. "He deals with the stress and the pressure very well. He's able to focus and stay locked in. He's been huge for us. He went out there and did more than we could hope for tonight. And on three days of rest."

Pettitte's learned a lot of Rocket Science since Clemens came on board. Pettitte and Clemens are both Texans, both represented by the Hendricks brothers. They've been known to charter a jet to fly home together for an offday with their families. Clemens has Pettitte doing his year-round training routine. They've been together so much that Pettitte is starting to talk like Clemens, starting many responses with, "Again, like I said."

"I really was throwing a good cutter tonight," said Pettitte. "Again, I felt good. I knew in the second inning I had a good cutter."

The Marlins couldn't do much with Pettitte's array of cut fastballs and sweeping curves. He faced the minimum in the first three innings, striking out the side in the third. He took a three-hit shutout into the eighth. All this on just the three days of rest. Pettitte was the starter and loser in Game 6 Wednesday against the Red Sox. He also had his spikes back on in the 11th inning of Game 7 and might have pitched if the epic game went longer.

He ran into some good luck in the seventh last night. With one on and nobody out, Miguel Cabrera hit a ball that appeared to carom off the batter's left leg and into fair territory. The Yankees turned an easy double play since neither Marlin tried to run. Then Derrek Lee lined out on a rocket to right and it was on to the eighth for Pettitte.

Pettitte had a chance for the Yankees' first World Series shutout since Ralph Terry blanked the Giants in Game 7 in 1962, but Aaron Boone's two-out error set the stage for an RBI single by Lee that brought Torre out with the hook. Jose Contreras came on to get the final out. "He had good stuff tonight," said Florida manager Jack McKeon. "You've got to tip your cap to Andy Pettitte. He did a great job. Kept us at bay."

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