Tuesday night will be, by far, the biggest start of David Phelps' career.
But the rookie, making a start in place of Ivan Nova, doesn't see much difference between it and any other second-half appearance he's made.
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"We haven't played a stress-free game since I've been back," said Phelps, recalled July 18. "We've been down to the wire the entire season so far, so nothing's going to change."
Of course, on July 18, the Yankees had a 10-game lead, which evaporated by Sept. 4. The Yankees haven't led the Orioles by more than 1 1/2 games since.
"It's a big game," said Phelps, 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA this season, including 2-2, 3.81 in 10 starts. "To know they have faith in me to go out there and give us a chance to win is a big deal."
Phelps, whom managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner on Monday called "a pleasant surprise," is 1-1 with a 3.44 ERA in two starts against Boston.
In his previous start, Sept. 19 in the second game of a doubleheader against the Blue Jays, Phelps allowed one earned run in 6 2/3 innings in a 2-1 victory.
"I like Phelps a lot," one opposing team scout said. "Stuff's not the greatest but nothing gets to him."
As for Nova, whose second half has mostly been a nightmare (2-5, 7.05), the demotion wasn't surprising. "The way I was pitching, yeah," he said. "They were expecting more from me . . . I want to pitch but he's the manager."
Girardi said should the Yankees play in a Division Series, Phil Hughes, who has allowed 13 runs his last three starts, would be in the rotation. "We look at Hughesie as being one of the starters for us," Girardi said. "That's our expectation."