Pettitte outdueled; was it final Stadium start?

New York Yankees Andy Pettitte comes off the

New York Yankees Andy Pettitte comes off the mound in the 7th inning of his ALCS game against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium. (Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara)

If this goes down as Andy Pettitte's final Yankee Stadium start, it will be remembered not for what he did but rather what he couldn't do. And that's match Cliff Lee's dominance.

Pettitte allowed only a two-run homer to Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton in seven strong innings last night in ALCS Game 3, but that first-inning shot was all the run support Lee needed en route to a 8-0 Rangers victory.

Pettitte said afterward he allowed himself to think about how this might have been his last start in the Bronx, "but there's a lot of baseball to be played and I feel real good about our team."

With one out and Michael Young on first base in the first inning, Pettitte threw a cutter low in the zone and on the outer half of the plate. But Hamilton extended his arms and pulled the pitch, showing off his impressive strength by lifting it a few rows over the short porch in right.

"It was just a bad pitch by me," Pettitte said. "Hung a cutter and left it out there."

Pettitte looked on almost in disbelief, no doubt understanding just how vital each run would be when going up against a pitcher who has been as dominant as Lee.

"You don't think at the time that's going to win the ballgame," he said. "I have all the confidence in the world in my guys."

After Hamilton's home run, Pettitte settled in nicely, allowing only three singles in the next 62/3 innings.

But that, obviously, is little solace when the final result is a loss. The Yankees fell behind 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

"You just think we're going to get a guy on and he'll make a mistake and we'll pop one out," Pettitte said. "That's what you come to expect here . . . I felt like if I kept the game close, we would have a shot."

The pitcher with the most wins in postseason history with 19, Pettitte has said he plans to ponder his future once again during an offseason spent at home with his family. He has done that the last three seasons, ultimately deciding to rejoin the Yankees on another one-year contract each time.

But the Yankees know that one of these years, he is going to decide to retire, leaving a significant gap in their rotation.

Pettitte said the thought of this being his last game at Yankee Stadium wasn't on his mind when he was on the mound, but it entered his head in the clubhouse afterward.

He pitched on 10 days' rest in Game 3 and he reiterated he's more than willing to pitch on no rest, as he has said all postseason. "I'm at the point where I'm not trying to save up for anything, you know?" he said. "I'm not trying to stay healthy. I want to do what I can to help this team win."

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