The Yankees 5-3 win over Oakland on Tuesday was dualistically a very common and yet historic victory. For the 57th time the Yankees won a game in the "common" fashion of featuring Andy Pettitte as their starter and Mariano Rivera as their closer. While this combination has been "commonly" consistent 57 times, this particular connection in victory proved historic as it tied Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersley for the most win/save combinations all-time.
While this mark obviously isn't the most publicly prominent achievement in the baseball record book, it is — at the very least — a testament to the consistency, efficiency, and durability of both men as they led the New York Yankees to four World Series titles and ten postseasons together. On Tuesday, with the dynamism of their youth stripped away by the progression of years, both men showed the grit, spirit, and tenacity that enabled them to elevate from — in a proverbial sense — the plateu of greatness to the mountaintop of champions.
Pettitte surrendered only two runs over his seven innings of work Tuesday, but it was a struggle the entire way. Andy was unusually hittable, getting smacked around for nine hits and most uncharacteristically striking out no one. But every time Pettitte allowed a man to reach base he never got rattled and never lost his focus or composure. He simply bared down and consistently executed his pitches, never giving in to the hitters, and forcing contact on his own terms.
While Pettitte didn't have his best stuff on the mist-covered, rain-drenched Oakland evening, he found a way to win the ball game with the limited arsenal he had; a highly positive sign for both Andy as well as the Yankees as they struggle to solidify their staff. When Pettitte is healthy and comfortable, possessing the consistent command to locate his pitches even when he's not at his best, and winning those games as he did on Tuesday, he possesses the potential to post a much higher win total this season than many preseason projections saddled him with.
It was his ability to rely on his knowledge and guile — when necessary — that originally
made Pettitte the "stopper" in the star-laden Yankees pitching rotations his first time around with the team. His performance against Oakland — an outing in which although Andy gave up the nine hits and struck out one he also did not walk a single batter — Pettitte showed that the aforementioned attributes have only increased with his experience and seasoning.