Past struggles don't worry Pettitte
South Side of Chicago hasn't been kind to veteran southpaw
CHICAGO -- Whether it was called new Comiskey Park or U.S. Cellular Field, this stadium has never been Andy Pettitte's favorite place to pitch.
Though it's been more than two years since he made a road start against the Chicago White Sox, Pettitte's 3-6 record and 6.33 ERA in 10 games at U.S. Cellular Field is the left-hander's second-worst ERA in any park where he's made at least five career starts.
The weather is supposed to be chilly and wet on Sunday night, and Pettitte will be opposed by Chicago's outstanding lefty, Mark Buehrle.
And the pressure will be on Pettitte after Houston dropped Saturday night's series opener, 5-3, after Roger Clemens lasted just two innings before departing with a strained left hamstring.
All in all, it will be a very difficult assignment for Pettitte and the underdog Astros. But that doesn't faze Pettitte.
"Whatever happened in the past won't matter once we get out there," Pettitte said. "In the playoffs, the history really doesn't mean that much."
Pettitte will be making his 34th career postseason start, the most all-time. His 14 postseason victories are the second most in the Major Leagues, behind only John Smoltz's 15.
Pettitte is also coming in on five days' rest after limiting St. Louis to two runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Monday night at Minute Maid Park.
"I think he's in great shape," Houston pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "I think that extra day [of rest] is going to do him good. Andy's probably been our most consistent guy over the last two or even three months of the season. I'm very comfortable with where he is coming into this game. I'm glad that he and Roger [Clemens], in particular, have some familiarity with this ballpark and the American League lineup."
Pettitte, 17-9 with a 2.39 ERA in 33 regular-season starts this season, owns a career 14-9 record and a 4.11 ERA in the postseason. He is 10-7 with a 4.28 ERA against the White Sox but hasn't faced them since 2003, when they were managed by Jerry Manuel and had a considerably different look.
All-time postseason wins leaders
"Yeah, they've changed so much since I was in the league, as far as their personnel and stuff like that," Pettitte said. "But [Scott] Podsednik is the key. Really just like any of the series that we go into, you've got to keep the first two guys off, or try to. [David] Eckstein gave me all kind of problems when he was getting on base in the last series, and was a headache for me. So it's extremely important to get those guys off.
"A lot of talk has been talked about they're small ball and stuff like that. They've got some power through their lineup, and so the key is to get those top two guys off the base, hopefully keep them off. You feel like the guys in the order are going to get their hits, and you hope not a whole lot of guys are on in the scoring position when they do that. I'm just going to go out and try to make pitches and just try to compete as best I can."
Pettitte, a two-time Pitcher of the Month this year, led the Majors with a 1.69 ERA and a .201 opponents batting average against in the second half of the season. His control has improved as the season has progressed, and he has done an excellent job of pitching to spots. That's a trait that could come in handy against the White Sox lineup.
"Yeah, they've got several guys that stand right on top of the plate," Pettitte said. "My philosophy is I try not to see the hitter; I try to see the mitt and just try to make my pitches to that mitt and try to block everything else out. Hopefully you can make some good pitches on the inside corner and let them know that you can throw the ball in there. It might open up something to go back away or whatever.
"But they've got some big, strong guys with some power. You've got to make some quality pitches. But I'm not going to change anything that I would normally do, no matter where they stand, no matter what they try to do. I'll try to continue to pitch my game and I'll take that approach."
The wild card for both pitchers might be the elements. It hailed briefly before Game 1 and the conditions are expected to be even drearier for Game 2.
"My biggest concern is not the cold but the wetness. You've got the possibility of slipping and maybe getting a little too extended," Hickey said. "Andy knows how to deal with that."
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.