For some of you reading this, you’ll know that the Yankees beat the Twins, 3-2 last night. However, the rare event that transpired in the bottom of the 8th was the key to the Yankee win.

AP Photo/Andy King

With the game tied 2-2 and Andy Pettitte still on the hill, the bottom of the 8th inning began when Minnesota catcher, Drew Butera led off the inning with a sharp double to right-center field that went off the glove of a diving Brett Gardner. Lead-off hitter Denard Span proceeded to bunt in hopes of sacrificing himself in order to move the runner to third base. Span successfully bunted the ball to Alex Rodriguez, forcing him to make a play at first base but Rodriguez misplayed the ball, allowing the Twins to have runners on 1st and 3rd with no-out with AL MVP Joe Mauer (.313 vs. LHP) moving to the on-deck circle. The infield moved in to cut the run off at home. Pettitte was able to retire Orlando Hudson on a line drive back to the mound. One out. The infield moved back in hopes of turning a double play.  Now here’s where the numbers come in.

The odds of driving in the go-ahead run with AL batting champ Joe Mauer coming to the plate with less than two outs  are pretty good. The odds are even better when Mauer has faced that pitcher three previous times and works a 3-1 count…

  • Mauer is a .409 hitter when facing a 3-1 count.
  • Mauer has 423 career plate appearances with at-least two runners on-base. Mauer has only grounded into a double play 25 times (6% of the time).
  • When Mauer faces the same pitcher for a 4th time in one game with one runner on, he is a .346 hitter and has grounded into a double play in 4 of those 78 plate-appearances (5% chance of happening).
  • In terms of ‘clutch-situations’**** Mauer is one of the best in the game. He is .311 hitter with the winning run in scoring position during tie games.

Enter Andrew Eugene Pettitte:

  • When Andy falls behind 3-1 in a count, opponents hit .331 against him.
  • In 343 at-bats against hitters with 3-1 counts, Pettitte has only gotten seven double plays. (Less than 2% chance).
  • When Andy faces a hitter for the 4th time in one game, opponents are hitting .290.
  • Pettitte has 405 plate appearances when faced with runners on 1st and 3rd with less than two outs, he has gotten 23 double plays (5.7% chance of happening).

Sure enough, Andy Pettitte got the reigning AL MVP to ground into a 6-4-3 inning-ending, back-breaking double-play on his 94th and final pitch of the night. Nick Swisher thanked Pettitte for his 8th inning heroics by blasting a 9th inning shot into the right field seats to give the Yankees the lead. Woefully, Mauer is now 4 for 21 against Pettitte in his career.

So just to recap. Mauer hits .409 during 3-1 counts. Mauer had a 94% chance of not grounding into a double play. Pettitte has only been successful in inducing the ground ball in 6% of those past situations.

Even in the most unlikely of circumstances, Andy Pettitte gets it done. The soon-to-be 38 year-old is 6-1 with a 2.62 ERA and has arguably been the AL’s best pitcher so far this season.  The all-time post-season wins leader is at his best in the big spots. He proved that again last night.

Some may call it luck, others may call it skill. I just call it, Old Reliable, Andy Pettitte.

****Clutch Situations are when the batting team is either tied or has the go-ahead run in scoring position.