Scouting Report - Andy Pettitte is back

In three games against Pettitte this season, the Cardinals hit just .188 against the left-hander. The southpaw wasn't available for the 2004 NLCS, so he gives the Astros a weapon that wasn't available a year ago.

With Houston dispatching of Atlanta in just four games, Andy Pettitte will take the mound Wednesday in the opener of the National League Championship Series in St. Louis.

The Astros' lefthander was in line to work Game 5 of the NLDS against the Braves, but Chris Burke's 18th-inning home run gave the Astros the Game 4 victory and the NLCS date with St. Louis for a second straight season.

Pettitte went seven innings and claimed the "W" in Houston's NLDS opener against Atlanta. The southpaw wasn't available for the 2004 NLCS, so he gives the Astros a weapon that wasn't available a year ago, when they faced the Cardinals for the chance to go toe to toe against Boston in the 2004 World Series.

The New York Yankees, who will be watching the rest of the post season from the comfort of their homes, after being dispatched from the playoffs by the Los Angeles, California, or Anaheim Angels, whoever they are, must be wondering how they ever let Pettitte go from New York.

In December of 2003, Andy Pettitte agreed to a three-year contract with the Houston Astros, reportedly worth about $31.5 million. The lefthander, who has spent his entire career with the New York Yankees, was 21-8 with a 4.02 ERA and one complete game in 33 starts in 03. He struck out 180 batters and walked 50 in 208.1 innings.

In his first season with the Astros, Pettitte didn't live up to the expectations of the Astros fans or management. He made only 15 starts and in most of those games he struggled more than his 6-4 and 3.90 ERA, record might indicate. He made a lot of starts playing at less than 100% because of arm problems.

Pettitte spent time on the disabled list in April and May with a strained forearm and finally in mid-August he succumbed to the elbow injury and eventually had surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon.

What a difference a year makes.

This season the 33 year old, 6'5" 225 pound, lefthander, went 17-9 with a 2.39 ERA for the Stros.

In three starts this season against the Cardinals, Pettitte had an 0-1 record with a 1.35 ERA. The Cardinals hit only .188 against him.

The Astro's offense has struggled often throughout the season and Pettitte could have just as easily finished with a 3-0 record against the Cardinals, if the Stros could have generated just a little offense.

Now he gets another chance to face the Cardinals to pick up his first win against the Central Division rivals. According to Pettitte, "When I signed with the Astros, this is what I hoped: that I would be able to help the organization get past that first round of the playoffs. Like I said a million times before, last year they did it without me, and hopefully this year I can help us get past this round now."

Pettitte throws a fastball and cutter, with a good curve and changeup. He has very good movement on all his pitches and changes speed effectively. His fastball tops out in the low 90's and depends on the movements of his pitches to keep the batters off balance.

The complete pitcher, Pettitte defends his position very well. A borderline gold glover, Andy covers first base well and can field bunts.

If he has a weakness, it is with his bat. Don't expect much from him from the plate. He's hitting just .081 this season even though he has set career high marks this season with 5 hits, 1 RS and 3 RBI.

If Pettitte can beat the Cardinals on Wednesday night, he'll tie Atlanta's John Smoltz for the most postseason wins ever, a record Pettitte has played nip and tuck with since he won three times for the Yankees during the 2003 postseason.

The Cardinals will be sending their staff ace, Chris Carpenter to the mound to face Pettitte in game one, in what promises to be a great pitching matchup.


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