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Pettitte just happy to get return engagement tonight Yankees starter knows margin for error is slim

ATLANTA — ATLANTA -- The first time it was a mismatch, but New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte is looking forward to the rematch. He'll face off again against presumptive National League Cy Young Award winner John Smoltz tonight, hoping to bounce back from a rocky performance in the opener to send the 92nd World Series back to Yankee Stadium.

"I'm just excited that I'm going to have another shot," said Pettitte. "Obviously, I'm not very satisfied with my first start."

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That would be something of an understatement. Pettitte lasted just 2 1/3 innings in Game 1, wilting quickly under a six-hit, seven-run barrage that put the Braves well on the way to a lopsided 12-1 victory.

This time, he will have to collect himself, or the Braves will be collecting the winner's share in the best-of-seven Series. Smoltz is the winningest pitcher in baseball this season, so the margin for error is going to be small.

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"Pettitte has to be better," said manager Joe Torre. "He needs to locate better. He has to establish a game plan and stick with it. He has to use all his pitches. And, hopefully, after facing Smoltz once, we'll have a better idea of what he does."

Smoltz's performance turned out to be largely irrelevant, even though he dominated the Yankees. He carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and gave up just two hits over six, but he was so far ahead that he didn't even have to unveil his entire pitch repertoire. He was basically feeding them a steady diet of fastballs and sliders. No reason to do anything else.

Pettitte retired the Braves in order in the first inning, but gave up a two-run home run to rookie Andruw Jones in the second and allowed five out of the first six batters to reach base in the third. Then he was gone. Hardly what you might expect from a 21-game winner and Cy Young candidate, but Pettitte isn't exactly a grizzled playoff veteran. He just completed his second major league season, after all, and this is his first World Series.

"I didn't have my command and I was falling behind guys," Pettitte said. "When that happens, you're going to have a long night. I just hope that I can do better tomorrow night."

The Yankees' chances of pulling off an amazing World Series comeback depends on it, but the 24-year-old left-hander doesn't have much more of a scouting report on the Braves than he did before Game 1.

"I wasn't out there long enough to get a feel for or a sense of the approach they were going to take against me," Pettitte said.

Smoltz, who has the momentum and a decided edge in both regular-season and postseason experience, also appears to have derived an advantage from their first encounter, even though the Yankees got a much longer look at him.

"I didn't have great command of my pitches in the first game," he said. "I just had a big lead. I didn't make a whole lot of great pitches, so I've got to think that I'm going to be better. That's my advantage. I know I can pitch better than I did.

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"I know I didn't give up a run, but that doesn't mean anything. I've pitched better than that and given up three or four runs."

Since he was ahead by so much, he did not have to struggle and he did not have to show the Yankees what he likes to throw in difficult situations. That means that it could be like facing him for the first time.

"I definitely tried not to show them too much," he said. "I threw some pitches in certain situations that I normally wouldn't because of the lead, so it is an advantage."

Don't expect the Braves to get overconfident at the plate. They know that Pettitte was pitching out of character in New York and they know that won't necessarily happen again.

"I'd be very surprised if we judged him by the way he did in New York," Smoltz said. "From what I've seen, he adjusts very well."

Pub Date: 10/24/96


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