Lefty nearly goes the distance

NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte has become the New York Yankees'
great equalizer.

Three times, New York has lost the opener of a postseason
series. Three times, Pettitte has helped the Yankees pull even.

Pettitte pitched a masterpiece Sunday night, stopping the
Florida Marlins cold. He came within one out of a shutout, allowing
six hits over 8 2-3 innings in leading New York to a 6-1 win that
tied the World Series at one game apiece.

"So far, after Game 1, all it's been doing this postseason is
adding a little more gray hair to my head going into Game 2," he

He struggled in the first inning, going to 3-2 counts on his
first three batters and throwing 21 pitches. Then Hideki Matsui hit
a three-run homer in the bottom half. After that, Pettitte breezed.

"For being on three days' rest, I was just thankful I felt as
strong as I did," he said.

Pettitte had thrown 92 pitches Wednesday in Game 6 of the AL
championship series against Boston and was worried how he would
feel. Teammate Roger Clemens, Pettitte's Texas neighbor and mentor,
set him straight before the game.

"We always talk before our starts and just feel each other
out," Pettitte said. "I was a little concerned with maybe having
to change my approach."

Clemens told him not to worry, reminding him of all their
workouts together, back at Clemens' house during the winter and at
the ballpark in the spring and summer.

"That's what we've worked so hard for," Clemens said to him.

Pettitte, who gave up only two infield hits in the first six
innings, didn't allow a runner past second base until Derrek Lee's
RBI single with two outs in the ninth -- an unearned run because it
followed Aaron Boone's second error of the night.

"He's a big-game pitcher. He's not bad in the regular season,
either, but he seems to step it up in the postseason," Florida's
Jeff Conine said.

Pettitte struck out seven and walked one in his 13th postseason
win, tying John Smoltz's career record, and he improved to 3-0 in
four starts during this year's playoffs and World Series.

All through the ninth inning, the full house of 55,750 chanted
Pettitte's name, urging him on to what fans hoped would be his
first shutout in 29 career postseason starts. When he left after
Lee's single, his 111th pitch, Pettitte sprinted to the dugout,
took off his cap and waved it to the crowd.

"It was very special," Pettitte said.

Clemens has all the awards, a record six Cy Youngs.

Mike Mussina got the big free-agent contract.

David Wells gets a lot of attention because of his outlandish

And Pettitte gets wins when his team needs them the most.

He won his last six regular-season starts that followed Yankees
losses, and now he's won three more in the postseason.

Yankees manager Joe learned to trust Pettitte that night in
Atlanta in 1996, when he pitched 8 1-3 tough innings in the 1-0 win
in World Series Game 5.

"Andy has been under the radar in the eight years I've been
here," Torre said. "There's always been somebody -- David Cone was
here, Clemens came aboard, Boomer -- there's always been somebody
that probably was a little more high profile than Andy. He sort of
likes it that way."

If either team sweeps the three games in Miami, Sunday night
could wind up as his last in pinstripes -- he's eligible for free
agency after the Series.

"I hate to talk too much about that stuff right now because
there's a lot to be done still," Pettitte said. "We'll worry
about all that when everything's over."

It's hard to see Pettitte leaving the Yankees, given the way he
feels about Torre.

"I love him like a father. We've been though so much,"
Pettitte said. "I love him to death. He's shown the ultimate faith
in me. Back in '99, he stuck his neck out on the line for me
whenever the team was ready, I think, to part ways with me."

And his teammates aren't ready to see him leave.

"He's been doing it time and time again," Derek Jeter said,
"and he did it again tonight. It's what we've come to expect from