BALTIMORE - Seventeen years ago, then-New York Yankees manager Buck Showalter called on rookie pitcher Andy Pettitte, 23, to start Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
Showalter's current team, the Baltimore Orioles, will face Pettitte, now 40, tonight in Game 2 of the ALDS. The manager was asked if it seemed remarkable their paths would cross again all these years later.
"It doesn't surprise me at all with Andy. It doesn't," he said. "The heart that he has - you know, the heart and the makeup and the want-to and all that stuff - is great. This time of year talent plays. He is talented, and that's why he's still capable of giving his team a chance to win is that he's a talented young man.
"I'm sure the Yankee fans and baseball in general feel fortunate to have been around to see Andy pass their way. ... So that'll be tough [tonight]."
No pitcher in baseball history has won more postseason games than Pettitte. He's 19-10 with a 3.83 ERA in a record 42 starts. His ERA is nearly identical to his overall 3.86 career mark.
"I feel like I've had some good games, but then I feel like I've had some bad games," Pettitte said. "I'm a benefit of a lot of great teams with a lot of great players around here, having a whole lot of opportunities to do this, and you combine all that with - I feel like I have the ability to make pitches sometimes in some crucial situations, and you're going to be fairly successful."
Pettitte's manager, Joe Girardi, was often his catcher during Pettitte's early years with the Yankees. Girardi said Sunday that the left-hander has grown as pitcher.
"He's added pitches," Girardi said. "His change-up he uses more now. He was really a four-seam guy. His cutter on the one side of the plate which would be the third-base side and a curveball. He would use both fastballs. ... He's just matured."
Pettitte went seven innings in his first playoff game for Showalter all those years ago, though he didn't factor in the decision.
He notched his first postseason win the next year - in Camden Yards - getting the Yankees back to the World Series by throwing eight innings of two-run ball in the clinching game of the American League Championship Series. His recollections of that long-ago Orioles-Yankees series have grown fuzzy.
"I mean, it was a long time ago, so I don't remember a whole lot about it," Pettitte said. "I think Cal was in that lineup and Bobby Bonilla, just a lot of great players on their team. And that was a big thrill for me to pitch that game, to help us go to the World Series."
Pettitte has been impressed by the 2012 Orioles' lineup, too.
"They're a well-rounded team, that's for sure," he said. "And Buck has done a great job of managing them, and to put them in good positions to win ballgames."
SLUMPING CHEN: Orioles Game 2 starter Wei-Yin Chen hasn't won since Aug. 19, going 0-4 over his final seven regular-season starts, but he said he isn't concerned about his late-season slump.
"I don't want to think too much about the approach at the end of the season," said Chen, through an interpreter. "Even though this is the postseason right now, but I'm still keeping the same thing. I don't want to think too much."
Chen will be pitching on six days of rest, having given up four runs in 6 2-3 innings in his final start, Oct. 1 at Tampa Bay.
"This is one shot and opportunity, so I don't think the extra days or anything will confuse me or anything," he said.
Chen went 1-2 in four starts against the Yankees this season. His first big-league start came against them on April 10, a no-decision.
The Taiwan-born left-hander finished his first season with the Orioles - and his first season in Major League Baseball after pitching the previous seven in Japan - at 12-11 with a 4.02 ERA. He made 32 starts, making him the only Oriole to remain in the starting rotation the entire season.
"It's been a great year to me and to the Orioles, too, and I'm so lucky to be here," he said. "It's been a really amazing year to me, so I just want to give everything out there, and I don't want to think too much right now, I just want to keep going, keep going, keep pitching."
MACHADO MOVES UP: Since making his major league debut on Aug. 9, rookie third baseman Manny Machado has been a fixture in the Orioles' batting order. The bottom third of the order.
Machado batted eighth 20 times, ninth 15 times, and seventh 13 times. He also batted ninth in Friday's Wild Card game. Only twice had he batted as high as sixth. But for Sunday night's ALDS opener, Machado was in the sixth spot against left-handed Yankees starter CC Sabathia.
Showalter was asked if batting the rookie that high was a show of confidence.
"Well, is that because of the confidence I have in him or the lack of confidence I have in guys behind him? No, I'm kidding," Showalter said. "With a guy like Sabathia, your whole mindset is try to figure out a way to get him out of the game before nine innings are up, because that's the biggest part of the equation. We just try to separate the left-handers a little bit and present ... the most challenge.
"We had two or three lineups that we messed around with but this was the one we felt like we were going to go with really on the plane back [from Texas]."
The Orioles went into Sunday night 34-18 with Machado in the lineup.TOUGH CHOICES: Showalter had numerous difficult decisions to make when the Orioles finalized their ALDS roster. Among those left off were pitchers Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and rookie Steve Johnson, who went 4-0 for Baltimore over the season's final two months.
"We put a lot of thought, keeping in mind that you've got to be cautious with - if you have an issue physically with somebody," Showalter said. "You could make a case for everybody. They've been such contributors for us."
One player who did make the final cut was Tommy Hunter, banished from the rotation, sent to the minors, but then revitalized in the bullpen late in the year.
"Tommy pitched very well out of the pen," Showalter said. "When we acquired Tommy, we felt like if we presented good options as a starter, we felt like Tommy could be a real contributor as a reliever, too, and he's certainly done that since he's pitched out of the pen. Plus, he can give us some length out of there if we need it."
STRONG FINISH: Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano had to be sorry to see this regular season end. He finished with nine consecutive multi-hit games, batting .615 (24 for 39) over that stretch. He had seven doubles, three home runs and 14 RBIs during his hot streak.
Robinson batted .347 in September, helping the Yankees finish the season on a 17-6 run to hold off the Orioles for the AL East title. He is a career .308 hitter, but holds only a .258 lifetime batting average in the postseason.BIRD BITS: The Orioles have been in the Division Series twice before, beating Cleveland in 1996 and Seattle in 1997 ... The Orioles have a .595 postseason winning percentage, second only to the Miami Marlins (.667) ... The Orioles are 11-7 all-time in postseason series ... Three Orioles came into this series having played at least 10 postseason game: Jim Thome (67), Endy Chavez (15) and Darren O'Day (11) ... The Orioles have gone 13-4 in games following an off-day ... The Orioles, facing left-handers CC Sabathia and Pettitte in the first two games of the ALDS, went 26-18 against left-handed starter this season. ... Miguel Gonzalez (9-4) is slated to face Hiroki Kuroda (16-11) in Game 3, Wednesday in New York.