Commentary

Old men on a mission in WS Game 6

Andy Pettitte aiming for a 27th title for Yanks; Pedro Martinez hoping for a Game 7

Originally Published: November 4, 2009
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

Opening Wednesday night at a $1.5 billion stadium: "Men Who Stare at Old Goats."

The eyes of the baseball world will be focused on two of the game's grand old men in Game 6 of the World Series on Wednesday. One victory from clinching another championship, the Yankees will start 37-year-old Andy Pettitte, who threw his first pitch for New York in 1995 when Luis Polonia still wore pinstripes. One loss from winter, Philadelphia counters with 38-year-old certain Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who didn't throw his first pitch with the Phillies until mid-August.

"I would just have to thank God, not only for the opportunity but for keeping me healthy and blessing me and Andy," Martinez said. "I have such a long career and it's gone full circle, to be able to compete in a World Series, on one of the biggest stages and to just see two old goats out there doing the best they can and having fun with it."

These two faced each other for the first time on May 31, 1998, when Joe Girardi was the Yankees' catcher, not their manager, so long ago that Pettitte says he doesn't remember the game. And perhaps for good reason. The Red Sox knocked him out of the game that day during an 11-run third inning.

Martinez I don't want to die and then hear everybody say, 'Oh, there goes one of the best players ever.' If you're going to give me props, just give them to me right now.

-- Phillies right-hander Pedro Martinez
"Derek Jeter and I were talking about it in the clubhouse last night, just how strange is this, after all the battles with [Martinez] being in Boston," Pettitte said. "I know I've faced him a bunch of times. I don't know about the playoffs, I can't really remember that. But in the course of a regular season and big series and stuff like that, and then to come full circle, this many years have passed, him with the Phillies and me back over here and stuff like that, it's going to be neat."

Actually, the two haven't pitched against each other that often over the years; Pedro faced Mike Mussina much more frequently in his starts against the Yankees. Still, with the World Series (aka, the Thanksgiving Classic) slipping ever deeper into November, it's only fitting that Game 6 matches two boys of autumn edging into lions of winter.

Pettitte is pitching on three days' rest for the first time in three years, which looms large given how poorly A.J. Burnett fared on short rest in Game 5. Pettitte said he felt terrible pitching on six days' rest in Game 3 -- "I just couldn't get the ball where I wanted it to go. Mechanically, I felt a little bit off." -- but said he doesn't think he'll have a problem in Game 6.

"I think just mentally people make such a big deal about it because it's just not done very often anymore," he said. "The biggest thing is I think just our routines. We get so set in just pitching on our fifth day, and you just don't do it, it's something that's a little bit unusual. For me, my mindset is just going to be the same as normal. I'm not going to try to blow balls by guys. I'm going to try to pitch like I normally would.

"Again, for me, if I can get my command and your mechanics are comfortable and stuff like that, you make the adjustments during the course of the game, and I feel like I should be successful."

Pedro, meanwhile, is pitching on an extra day of rest after holding the Yankees to three runs in six-plus innings in Game 2 last week. "I've got no choice but to expect that it will help me," he said.

It's not that surprising Pettitte is pitching here -- this is his 40th postseason start and his 13th World Series start -- but it's somewhat of an upset Pedro is here given he didn't have a job until the Phillies signed him in mid-July. Martinez was 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA for the Phillies down the stretch, helping them to the World Series -- Pedro's second in a career that has made his name one of the most recognizable in the game, probably long after he retires.

"I'm pretty sure that my name will be mentioned. I don't know in which way," he said. "But maybe after I retire, because normally when you die, people tend to actually give you props about the good things. But that's after you die. So I'm hoping to get it before I die. I don't want to die and then hear everybody say, 'Oh, there goes one of the best players ever.' If you're going to give me props, just give them to me right now."

While the spotlight will begin on the starters, the bullpen probably will play a key role. Neither team can feel comfortable about its middle relief, but the Yankees at least can rely on Mariano Rivera to close things out at the end of the game if they can get him the lead. Phillies fans, on the other hand, have to wonder about Brad Lidge, who was terrible during the regular season, appeared to regain his form during the playoffs, then saw things unravel quickly in a three-run ninth in Game 4. Manager Charlie Manuel left Lidge in the 'pen and used Ryan Madson to somewhat shakily close out a save situation in Game 5.

Manuel said he still has confidence in Lidge, but when asked how he might use the pitcher and when, the manager replied, "The way I want to, when we get there and how I feel. I'll do a lot of talking in the dugout with [pitching coach Rich Dubee] and we'll decide on which one we want to put out there."

The Yankees, meanwhile, are waiting for some production from first baseman Mark Teixeira (2-for-19 in the World Series) and second baseman Robinson Cano (3-for-18). They will get designated hitter Hideki Matsui (5-for-9, two homers) back in the lineup and Jorge Posada (5-for-16, 5 RBIs) will be behind the plate again now that Burnett has made his final start.

Can the Phillies become the fourth team to rally from a 3-1 World Series deficit while winning the final two games on the road? Can the Yankees win their 27th World Series? Can Alex Rodriguez continue his dramatic postseason? We'll have to see. But Pedro knows enough to savor the moment, no matter how the Yankee Stadium crowd treats him.

"What else would I want? I'm doing the job I love," Martinez said. "I'm doing something that not everybody gets to do. If you consider the fact that two months back I was sitting at home not doing anything, none of you were thinking of me whatsoever, none of you were asking me questions, and today I am here, probably pitching one of the biggest games ever in the World Series, two great teams with a whole bunch of legendary players."

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com