The veteran will make his final regular-season start Saturday night when the Yankees continue a weekend road series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
While the choice of 19-game winner Sabathia to open the playoffs was an easy one, picking the starter for Game 2 may be more important. That’s because the Game 2 starter would likely also get the call for a potential decisive fifth game.
Pettitte (14-7, 4.11 ERA) may have the edge on A.J. Burnett(notes) for the second game because of experience - he has 35 career postseason starts while Burnett has none. Burnett has pitched better at home, while Pettitte is 8-3 with a 3.59 ERA in 15 road starts.
“The way that the team looks right now, we’re just set to go into the postseason,” Pettitte told the Yankees’ official Web site. “If we keep everybody healthy the rest of the way, we’ve just got to do it in the postseason, and it’s tough to do.”
The left-hander is trying to win 15 games for the ninth time in his career. He’s 16-4 with a 3.82 ERA in 27 career starts against the Rays, including 1-0 with a 4.66 ERA in three this year.
Pettitte will be trying for a better playoff tuneup than Sabathia turned in Friday. Sabathia’s personal nine-game win streak came to an end as he gave up nine runs over 2 2-3 innings of a 13-4 loss to start this series.
“It’s disappointing because we really wanted to get him 20 (wins),” Girardi said.
“It was an incredible night for him,” manager Joe Maddon said.
Juan Miranda’s(notes) first career homer, a two-run, eighth-inning shot off Dale Thayer(notes), enabled the Yankees to tie a franchise record for home runs in a season. The AL East champions also hit 242 in 2004.
The Yankees have lost two straight following a seven-game winning streak.
Tampa Bay will hand the ball to Jeff Niemann(notes) (12-6, 3.94), who will try to bolster his rookie of the year hopes. Niemann has two fewer wins than Detroit’s Rick Porcello(notes) and Toronto’s Ricky Romero(notes) among AL rookies, but owns a lower ERA than those two pitchers.
The right-hander is 0-1 with a 4.25 ERA in his last six outings. He allowed four runs over 3 1-3 innings Monday in a game the Rays went on to win 7-6 over Baltimore.
Niemann has no decisions and a 2.61 ERA in two starts against the Yankees, both in New York.