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Wright looks to make impact in Game 4

Wright looks to make impact

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DETROIT -- The day before this Division Series started, Yankees manager Joe Torre said he was not announcing a Game 4 starter because he wasn't sure he'd need one.

In a few days, things have shifted so dramatically that Torre now needs Jaret Wright -- his Game 4 starter -- to help save the season.

The Yankees are trailing the Tigers, 2-1, in this best-of-five series, meaning Wright, in a way, is serving as the last line of defense.

With the fearsome Yankees offense in a severe slump -- as in no runs over the last 14 innings -- they desperately need a big-time effort from Wright.

"Jaret's been throwing well for us, but it doesn't make a difference how well we pitch if we don't score," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. "We need to score some runs."

At least Wright can have an impact this October.

Flash back to a year ago. Somewhere between Anaheim and Chicago, Jaret Wright's 2005 postseason ended in, as it turned out in that case, the unfriendly skies. The Yankees, who were playing Game 5 of the Division Series in Anaheim that night, sent Wright ahead of the team to Chicago so he could be fresh for his start in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the White Sox.

That start never came, thanks to New York losing to the Angels in a deciding Game 5.

"I actually asked the stewardess if we won or lost," said Wright. "She said we lost. I was at the hotel in Chicago with, you know, none of the boys, so that was tough. To get another chance this year after the way, you know, last year ended and went for me, I think it's exciting for me."

Wright will be able to make far more of an impact this October. Saturday afternoon, he will be on the mound trying to extend the Yankees' season to a Game 5 on Sunday.

Torre gave Wright the nod over Cory Lidle for this start.

"Jaret, he came a long way this year," said Torre. "He won [11] games for us. Early on, he kept you on the edge of your seat with the pitch count, getting behind on hitters. There was always one thing that was a common denominator with him, and that's the fact that you knew he wasn't going to unravel. If he got beat up, it wasn't because he lost his composure."

Wright, though, is no stranger to the month of October. He had mixed results (3-5, 6.75 ERA) this time of year.

Who could forget the 21-year-old phenom of the Indians pitching Games 3 and 7 of the 1997 World Series against the Marlins? Wright pitched Cleveland to victory in Game 3. And then, in Game 7 at Miami, he pitched his heart out (6 1/3 innings, one run, seven strikeouts), only to watch closer Jose Mesa squander it away.

Florida's manager in 1997? None other than Jim Leyland, who is Detroit's manager in this postseason.

"We were on the wrong side of that one. He has my ring basically," said Wright. "He's done a great job, you know, with the team they had in '97, then with the Tigers this year. Hopefully we can change that and be on the winning end of it this year."

Back then, Wright thought his career would be full of big Octobers. Instead, he goes into Saturday's start looking for his first postseason win since that initiation in 1997.

"Yeah, in '97, being 21, throwing in the World Series and whatnot, you have that invincible feeling, like you're never going to get hurt, you're always going to go to the World Series," Wright said. "Over the course of it, you learn that doesn't happen. You gain a perspective on the game where you try to enjoy it, get the most out of it. I think going back this year, being a Yankee I think is special to me."

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Wright has been a far more reliable pitcher for Torre down the stretch than he was earlier in the year, when he seldom made it to the sixth inning. He closed out the season by going six innings in four of his last five starts.

"I mean, for me, I think starting, you'd like to be pitching well going into October, obviously," said Wright.

This will be Wright's first postseason start since 2004, when he went 0-2 with a 9.31 ERA in two starts for the Braves.

Without question, he's seen the best and the worst the postseason has to offer.

"I think they're both probably big factors," said Wright. "I mean, in any game, you know, regular season, postseason, it comes down to execution, how many mistakes you get away with, stuff like that. But, you know, you try to limit that. You try to make your pitches when you're supposed to, and try to keep the ball down. I know I'm going to try to do that."

No matter how it turns out, it will be far less hollow for Wright than last year's airplane ending.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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