October is usually the month that Andy Pettitte shines. But this year's August was pretty impressive and could turn out to be one of the keys if the Yankees return to the postseason for the 13th straight year. Pettitte went 6-0 with a 2.36 ERA in six August starts and was named the American League Pitcher of the Month on Tuesday. "I'm really just feeling good," Pettitte said after an Aug. 22 win over the Angels. "My command's been there, and that's the key. I'm throwing my stuff for strikes, and my two-seamer has been there. It's been a big pitch for me."
The past month could be considered the best of Pettitte's career. He had gone 5-0 in a month three times during his career -- April 1997, September 2002 and July 2005 -- but August marked the first time he had won all six of his starts in a given month. Pettitte didn't allow more than three runs in any of his six starts and recorded wins over other contending teams in the Red Sox, Angels, Tigers and Indians as well as the Blue Jays and White Sox. The last three of those wins came after a Yankees loss. "You want to set the tone again," Pettitte said after an Aug. 28 win over the Red Sox -- one game after the Yankees lost to the Tigers, 16-0. "That's really all I ever try to do, to go out and give us a good start to the game -- a good feel to the game. I want the guys to know that I'm going to be aggressive in the strike zone, and hopefully, we can feed off the energy of the crowd. I definitely felt like I needed to have a good outing." And with a struggling Mike Mussina temporarily pulled from the Yankees' rotation in favor of rookie Ian Kennedy and Roger Clemens dealing with right elbow discomfort, the Yankees will depend even more on Pettitte down the stretch. "Andy knows when it's important for us to win, but every time he goes to the mound, it's important for him to win," manager Joe Torre said after Pettitte's win over the Angels prevented a three-game sweep. "This game was enormously important." Now, with the Yankees hanging on to a one-game lead over the Mariners in the American League Wild Card entering play on Tuesday, they will look for continued success from Pettitte to get them into October. Pettitte is 18-6 in 34 career postseason starts. "It's like he's never missed a beat here," teammate Jason Giambi said of Pettitte. "When I played against him with the A's, he was that guy we knew was going to be tough, no matter how good or bad the Yankees were playing. Andy was always that guy, and he's stepped back in that role." Pettitte will receive a Sharp AQUOS HD LCD TV and a commemorative trophy for the award. Other AL pitchers up for consideration were Cleveland's Jake Westbrook, Baltimore's Erik Bedard and Boston's Jonathon Papelbon.
Tim Kirby is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.