Players eagerly stood on the top step, watching with the anticipation you would expect from a team suddenly nine outs from the World Series.
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But Andy Pettitte knew he couldn't get ahead of himself.
As difficult as it may have been, Pettitte said he forced himself to stay focused on his Game 6 assignment, because the last thing a competitor in this situation wants to do is lose focus. Even if deep down he hopes that next start doesn't take place.
"Mentally, I was continuing to think about how I was going to get these guys out and not looking forward to another team or anything like that," Pettitte said about an hour after the Yankees' 7-6 loss Thursday night. "I just kept trying to get ready to figure out how to get these guys out."
Easier said than done, yes, but if there's anyone the Yankees believe can deal with the uncertainty of an if-necessary assignment, it's Pettitte. He's made 37 postseason starts in his career, 33 as a Yankee. He's proven he can handle the pressure he'll be under Saturday night.
"I know I've made so many starts in the postseason and been in this situation so many times," Pettitte said. "I've been there and done that.
"But all that experience or whatever is not going to help me when I go out in the first inning and help my pitches be where they need to be."
The Angels' Torii Hunter made a point of mentioning immediately after Game 5 that all the pressure is on the Yankees now because they don't want to blow a three-games-to-one lead. Not to mention that the last time they were in the ALCS, in 2004, they became the first and only team in baseball history to blow a three-games-to-none lead.
But with Pettitte taking the mound Saturday night, the Yankees feel good. Not only because he's allowed four runs in 122/3 innings this postseason but because he's a reminder of those Yankees teams that never faltered in these situations.
"There's going to be a lot of energy in the ballpark," said Pettitte, who allowed a solo homer to Howie Kendrick and a tying two-run homer to Vladimir Guerrero during the Yankeees' 5-4 loss in Game 3. "Like I said, you just hope you can control yourself. Make your pitches. Make quality pitches throughout the game. Hopefully, we'll be able to wrap this thing up on Saturday."
To prepare for this start, Pettitte threw a short bullpen session before Game 5 at Angel Stadium. But in reality, it's a start the lefthander has been thinking about for close to a year.
After being a part of the first Yankees team to miss the playoffs since 1993, Pettitte watched the Yankees sign CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and decided he had to be a part of this rotation, knowing full well the potential of another World Series ring.
He already has four of them, of course. Now he has a chance to take the Yankees one step closer to that goal.
"For me, I mean, this is it," Pettitte said. "This is what I came back for."
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