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The heat is on Pettitte

Game 2 preview: Pettitte faces pressure

CHICAGO -- Two of the best left-handers in the game will take center stage for Game 2 of the 2005 World Series. But there will be a lot more pressure, in more ways than one, on the visiting lefty.

The Chicago White Sox won the Series opener and will now send Mark Buehrle against Andy Pettitte of the Houston Astros on Sunday night.

Pettitte has been down this postseason road so often, it must seem like his driveway at home. Buehrle will be starting his first World Series game. But the experience factor hasn't worked against Buehrle in two starts in this postseason. He had never started a postseason game before this October, but he beat Boston in the American League Division Series. And then, after a White Sox loss in the AL Championship Series opener, Buehrle helped to turn the whole thing around, beating the Angels and starting a White Sox streak of four consecutive complete-game victories.

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Buerhle might be the ideal pitcher for the forecasted cold and damp conditions Sunday night. He works fast and he's a strike machine. His colleagues on defense will be grateful to him, because he'll get them back to the relative warmth of the dugout as quickly as possible.

"The faster you work, the better off you're going to be," Buehrle said Saturday. "I just don't see any reason to go out there and waste time. Just go out there and get the ball."

The Chicago forecast for Sunday night is truly bleak, with rain probable and temperatures plunging into the 30s. On the bright side, it's not quite cold enough for snow. On the realistic side, this is the upper Midwest in late October, a time of the year when people here say "the frost is on the pumpkin," or more accurately, "the frost is on the punkin." All you can hope for in this season, in this place, is baseball played in football weather. Otherwise, you get baseball played in hockey weather.

Pettitte is likely going to have to be at his best, regardless of the conditions, to keep the Astros from falling into a two-game deficit. He won't be in awe of his circumstances. Even before this October, he had 30 postseason starts, pitching to a 13-8 record.

But there is more riding on this than even the Astros' need to get the Series back to even. Pettitte is pitching for his hometown team. Pettitte's move to the Astros from the Yankees triggered the end of Roger Clemens' brief retirement and his signing with the Astros. The Astros hadn't been in a World Series in their first 43 years of existence and Pettitte has sort of engineered this appearance.

"To tell you the truth, for me, personally, a lot of pressure," Pettitte said Saturday about the 2005 postseason. "I know I was putting a lot of pressure on myself for that reason, 44 years, never been here, the opportunity to get here was just right in front of us."

On the other hand, it's been highly enjoyable for Pettitte pitching for a successful Houston team. He likens this to his first World Series experience, with the Yankees in 1996.

"This is right there with my first trip in '96," he said. "Obviously, we went so many times after that in New York, but this has been extremely special and gratifying to help this organization get to this World Series.

"It's almost like I'm 24 again and I'm, man, we got to a World Series, it's unbelievable. It's very special to be able to go home and pitch. My family, all my friends that I grew up with, everybody will be able to see my throw, finally, and compete in the games. And then being able to see me go through the postseason and something like this, it's definitely been very special."

It would be even more special if Pettitte could get the Astros back to 1-1 in the Series.

"I'll feel real good about it if we can get one here and go home," Pettitte said. "[The White Sox] are going to be real tough here, there's no doubt about it. Hopefully, I can go out and give us a good start and we can scratch a few runs out. The weather is not going to be great, as cold as it's going to be. Probably, hopefully from our standpoint it will be low scoring."

That would seem to be a safe forecast, for a game started by Andy Pettitte and Mark Buehrle, in late October, very close to a Great Lake.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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