That changed Wednesday. Pettitte started and earned the win in the Yankees' 7-3 victory vs. the Phillies in Game 6 of the World Series, helping the Bombers win their 27th World Series championship.
"It makes it sweeter, no doubt, because you don't know if you are going to get a chance to go back," Pettitte said in the Yankees' celebratory clubhouse. "I realize I'm 37 years old. I realize I'm getting older. That makes it sweet."
In 12 years with the Yankees that sandwiched a three-year stop with the Astros, Pettitte has built up an all-time lead in postseason starts with 40. His win Wednesday was his 18th, also the most. His 249 innings in the playoffs represent more than any single season in his 15-year career.
"There isn't a guy you'd want on the mound more than him," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "He's been in every situation. He's succeeded in all situations. We have a lot of confidence in him. I don't care how many days' rest he's on."
This year's Fall Classic marked Pettitte's eighth overall and seventh with the Yankees. Among pitchers, only Whitey Ford, who pitched in 11 World Series, has appeared in more.
Working on three days' rest after winning Game 3 on Saturday in Philadelphia, Pettitte remained effective despite spotty control in 5 2/3 innings of three-run ball. He walked five and struck out only three. But aside from a run in the third and a two-run Ryan Howard homer in the sixth, Pettitte managed to keep the Phillies off the board.
Pettitte, who beat the Red Sox to clinch the American League East on Sept. 27, became the second pitcher to win the clinching game in all three postseason rounds and the first to start and win every game. Derek Lowe of the 2004 Red Sox beat the Angels, Yankees and Cardinals to help the Red Sox win their first championship in 86 years.
Pettitte, who started Game 4 as the Yankees swept the Padres in the 1998 World Series, has now won the clinching game in a postseason series six times. He is the first Yankees pitcher to win two games in the same World Series since Mike Torrez did it in 1977 and the 10th pitcher in Major League history to clinch two World Series.
"I just enjoy seeing everyone else enjoy it," Pettitte said. "I've been able to do it so many times. Obviously, it's great to win another one. But I'm just fired up to see the young guys and see the guys who haven't won one yet."
Masters of October
|3.||Tom Glavine||14||218 1/3|
|Curt Schilling||11||133 1/3|
|10.||Catfish Hunter||9||132 1/3|
Pettitte, Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada have now all won five championships; they also won in 1996, '98, '99 and 2000. Even after a nine-year hiatus, Pettitte still said the experience of the earlier titles helped him.
"I really don't know what to say," Pettitte said. "We've been here. We've been able to do it. I don't know how they feel, but I just feel so much more comfortable, I feel more relaxed. The more experience you get, it makes it easier for you to go through."
When Pettitte last pitched in a Game 6 of the World Series, he left the mound a tough-luck loser facing an uncertain future. Josh Beckett and Marlins bested the Yankees for the 2003 title, and Pettitte, feeling neglected by the Yankees, would sign a three-year contract with the Astros.
Now Pettitte's future is again up in the air. He is not under contract for 2010. Since returning to the Yankees before the 2007 season, Pettitte has said his goal has been to win another championship. With that goal achieved, he could consider retirement.
"I'm not sure," Pettitte said about his future. "I have to go home and talk to my family. I have to talk to the Yankees and find out where they're at, and then I can probably start trying to figure out what I want to do."
Thomas Boorstein is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.