A week ago in Houston, Brad Lidge blew the win in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series when the Cardinals' Albert Pujols hit that ninth-inning, three-run homer to stave off the Astros' pennant-clincher for one game. On Sunday, Dan Wheeler, Chad Qualls and Lidge all conspired to deprive the Astros of what would have been a series-tying win.
Pettitte had thrown 98 pitches in a steady rain and left because Garner rightfully thought the veteran, 33-year-old left-hander had pitched enough.
"I began to stiffen up in the cold, and the skipper wanted to make a move and go to the 'pen," Pettitte said. "I just wish I could've given us more innings and it had turned out a different way."
Asked what in particular had stiffened up, Pettitte added: "Everything. Not my arm. The whole body."
Before the seventh was out, Wheeler had loaded the bases and Paul Konerko hit a grand slam on Qualls' first pitch to give the White Sox a 6-4 lead.
"It was a sinker that didn't drop, but stayed over the plate," Qualls, the right-handed Houston reliever, said.
After the Astros tied it up in the top of the ninth, Scott Podsednik drilled Lidge's 2-1 pitch into the right-center field bleachers for the victory. It was the second walk-off homer Lidge has allowed in the last four batters he's faced.
Pettitte had hoped to pick up the team a night after his buddy Roger Clemens left the Game 1, 5-3 Houston loss after two innings when he re-injured a left hamstring that has been bothering him since the end of the regular season.
"There's no doubt, this was a big game," Pettitte said. "To be able to split here would've been real nice for us. But we didn't."
Two postseasons ago, while he was still in New York pitching for the Yankees, Pettitte was the Game 2 stopper in each of the three rounds, defeating Minnesota, Boston and Florida after the Yankees had dropped the first game of each series.
That Game 2 magic didn't take hold on Sunday night.
"I can't allow myself to even think about that," Pettitte said. "All I can think about is just going out there and pitching my game. Man, I just hope I give us a quality start and be on the mound as long as I can."
This is his first postseason for the Astros after elbow surgery cut short his 2004 season, but though Pettitte has been just as determined, he hasn't been as fortunate.
Before starting Game 1 of the NLCS at St. Louis, Pettitte was running the bases during batting practice when he was drilled in the right knee by a Roy Oswalt line drive.
Pettitte took a pain-killing shot so he could start the game, but he wasn't effective.
Though Pettitte insisted that the injury didn't affect him, the Cards led 5-0 through five innings on their way to a 5-3 victory. Pettitte worked six innings, allowing five runs on eight hits.
In Game 5 at Minute Maid Park, he continued to struggle, but left in the seventh inning having allowed two runs on seven hits. On Sunday night, Pettitte held the White Sox to two runs on eight hits, but he had obviously run out of gas when Garner pulled the plug.
"He hasn't had a break," Oswalt said in Pettitte's behalf after the game. "They were trying to get the pitch count up, going deep in every count. Make him throw 15, 20 pitches an inning. This late in the season after elbow surgery last year, he gave us six solid innings. You couldn't ask for anything more."