2. Andy Pettitte, Game 5, 1996 World Series
Andy Pettitte led the ’90s Yankees to their first World Series with an unbelievably gutsy outing.
Yes, Andy Pettitte’s dynasty kickoff in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series really was the second-best World Series start in Yankees history. It was almost No. 1, except…you know. You’ll see. If you want to click over there, I won’t be mad.
This is the rare start that gets mythologized in our collective memory, but the actual effort absolutely lives up to the mental picture, and it was as improbable as it was breathtaking.
Coming off a dud-of-the-century, Pettitte had allowed seven earned runs in 2.1 innings in the series opener at home, leading to a 12-1 Braves win and Andruw Jones’ coming out party. Surely, he’d fade even worse on short rest on the road, right?
Well, about that. Pettitte bit his lip and shoved for 8.1 innings, out-dueling John Smoltz in a 1-0 nerve-frayer.
With things at their most dire in the bottom of the sixth, clinging to the smallest possible lead, Pettitte gave up a leadoff single to Smoltz (don’t do that!), and then another single to Marquis Grissom. Mark Lemke laid down a bunt, but instead of advancing the runners, Pettitte fielded the ball, whipped around, and caught Smoltzie at third. One double play later, and the composed lefty had to cover up the steam emerging from his nose. Legend.
John Wetteland replaced Pettitte with one out in the ninth — he exited with a runner on third and one out. Two sweat-soaked outs later, though, and the most legendary single game in modern Yankees history was in the books.
Not a huge deal or pivot point, all things considered. Only four rings followed in the immediate aftermath.
So, what could top that?