ALCS YANKEE PRACTICEAndy Pettitte did not want to be in the interview room at Angel Stadium late Thursday night, discussing his upcoming Game 6 start in the AL Championship Series. He would have preferred a champagne celebration with his teammates, but the Yankees had lost Game5 about 45 minutes earlier, failing to close out the Angels.

Still, in a larger sense, Pettitte was sitting right where he had hoped to be months earlier and talking about something that means a great deal to him – the possibility of helping the Yankees reach the World Series for the first time since 2003.

“That was all I really thought about as far as when I signed the contract that I did,” Pettitte said. “They signed A.J. (Burnett) and they signed CC (Sabathia) and I knew we had a good club. And I felt like if you added me with them, if I stayed healthy and we all stayed healthy, I felt like this is where we could be.

“So for me, I mean this is it. This is what I came back for. It’s kind of all worked out. And we have a tremendous opportunity here. I have a tremendous opportunity to help this organization get back to another World Series. More than anything, I’m just thankful for that. I’m thankful I’ve been healthy all year. It’s been a great year, and hopefully we can wrap this thing up. It will be special.”

The Yankees hold a 3-2 lead in the series entering tonight’s Game 6 at the Stadium, where the 37-year-old Pettitte faces Joe Saunders. The Angels are the only team to beat Pettitte twice this season and they won his only other start in the series, Game 3, though Pettitte got a no-decision.

Pettitte, who has won four series-clinching games for the Yankees, is tied with John Smoltz for the most career postseason victories (15). He also has made more starts (tonight will be his 38th) and thrown more innings (231) in the postseason than anyone, so he feels like “I’ve been there and done that.” Still, he admitted, “I’m not sure really that they do anything as far as helping me other than I know I’ve made so many starts in the postseason and been in this situation so many times.”

He’s had some big starts in the postseason – for years, Joe Torre lauded Pettitte for beating Smoltz, 1-0, in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series. He’s had some clunkers, too, like the time he lasted only three innings against the Angels in Game 2 of the 2002 division series.

Pettitte has pitched well this October, with a 1-0 record and a 2.84 ERA in two starts, including beating the Twins in the clincher of the opening round.

Even with the Yankees having a chance to clinch the series in Game 5, Pettitte still went through his normal preparations as if he were certain to start Game 6. It’s what a pitcher has to do to be ready, he says.

He threw a short side session Thursday and kept up his work with weights. “Mentally, you continue 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.

“Like I said when the series started, I thought it was going to be a dogfight, thought it was going to be a war,” Pettitte added. “We knew these guys didn’t have any quit in them.”

Pettitte knows emotions will run high tonight at the Stadium, with some fans fretting that the Yankees are headed for another ALCS meltdown, such as when they lost a 3-0 lead to the Red Sox in 2004. Four other times in the ALCS, the Yankees have had a 3-1 lead and have gone on to win the series.

“You know there’s going to be a lot of energy in the ballpark,” Pettitte said. “You just hope you can control yourself, make your pitches. Hopefully, we’ll be able to wrap this thing up.”

Source : www.nydailynews.com

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