Pettitte swallows pride and leads Yankees

BY Bob Klapisch • November 6, 2009

By the time it was over, no one could figure out who to hug and who to spray with champagne. So the Yankees turned the clubhouse into a frat party, shouting at each other in the way men use as a substitute for tears.

It was a fitting end for a near-perfect season in the Bronx. The Bombers were just too good for the Phillies, just as they'd had too much firepower for the Twins and Angels. The National League champs put up a respectable fight, but after their 7-3 loss in Game 6 of the World Series, Charlie Manuel was forced to admit what was obvious to the industry, not to mention the entire country.

"(The Yankees) were a really good team," he said quietly. "They definitely deserved to win."

The Bombers were too busy celebrating to truly appreciate the precious strokes of irony. But everywhere you looked, there was evidence of how special and different this team was.

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There was Derek Jeter practically mugging Alex Rodriguez, dousing him with enough champagne to turn the third baseman into a human sponge. They were friends now — finally. "What does this mean to you?" Jeter asked A-Rod, to which he answered, "it means the world."

Andy Pettitte basked in the same after-victory glow — out-pitching Pedro Martinez for nearly six innings, then walking off the mound to a thunderous standing ovation. This was Pettitte's 18th career postseason victory and a perfect (and unspoken) "take that" to management for offering him just $5.5 million this year.

Pettitte set the tone with a 1-2-3 first inning, making it clear he had no issues pitching on three days' rest. It was Pedro, not Pettitte, who would struggle with his command and velocity. The gun-readings said it all: Martinez never once hit 90-mph, prompting Manuel to ruefully say, "(Pedro) just did not have a good fastball."

His vulnerability was apparent five batters into the game, after Rodriguez led off the second inning with a walk and Martinez found himself desperately working the corners to Matsui.

Pedro would later say he had "no regrets" about his performance, but he wishes he could've taken back that full-count fastball that strayed over the middle of the plate. Matsui killed it, destroyed it, sent it screaming over the right field wall.

That was the start of a Reggie-like night for the Japanese slugger, who drove in six runs and was voted the Series' Most Valuable Player. It's almost certain that Matsui had played his final game in pinstripes, which made his postgame remarks more poignant.
"This is the greatest moment of my life," Matsui said through an interpreter, and went on to talk about the "long and difficult" road to his first world championship as a Yankee. Jeter went one step further, saying, "Matsui has been one of the best teammates I've had in my career." He got no argument from anyone in the room.