Andy Pettitte continues to make progress in his rehab from a strained left groin.
According to Mike Mazzeo of the Newark Star-Ledger, the veteran left-hander threw a 55-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium and reported feeling “good.”
“I threw 30 pitches like a warm-up, sat down for about five minutes and threw a good, hard simulated (25-pitch) innings,” said Pettitte. “I felt good and had no discomfort in there at all. This is definitely the best I’ve felt, I just want to continue to go out there and not have any problems.”
Pettitte was off to an incredible start this season before the groin issue sidelined him in mid-July. Once healthy, he will return to an 11-2 record, a 2.88 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. He’s also fanned 90 batters in 115.2 innings and allowed only 38 walks. The Yankees believe he is a little under two weeks from returning to the starting rotation.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.