New York's veteran left-hander appeared as though he was in midseason form even though he was making just his fourth appearance since the end of June and working on eight days' rest.
Pettitte surrendered just three runs over seven-plus innings, but despite the solid pitching line, he was far from pleased with the overall outing in a 3-2 loss to the Orioles during Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Camden Yards.
"It's a playoff game, bottom line, you know if you give up too many runs, that number doesn't add up too high before, you know, you're getting a loss," said Pettitte, who became the fourth oldest Yankee to make a postseason start.
"It's just tough. They did a great job, their guy [Wei-Yin Chen] did a great job making pitches when he had to. We had a lot of guys in scoring position, we had a lot of opportunities, we just weren't able to take advantage of it."
Pettitte entered with more postseason wins than any pitcher in Major League history. The experience was supposed to be a key factor in his matchup against Chen, and during the early stages of the game, it was.
The 40-year-old Pettitte was staked to an early 1-0 lead, then retired the first eight batters he faced. But then, almost at the flick of a switch, things went sour as he surrendered a pair of singles and walked J.J. Hardy to load the bases with two outs in the third.
That's when Pettitte made his biggest mistake of the game, hanging a 1-0 slider to Chris Davis. Pettitte wanted the ball down and away, but instead left it dead center and Davis took advantage by lining a shot into right field for a pair of RBIs.
"He's a good pitcher, he knows how to pitch and he knows how to use your weaknesses against you," Davis said of Pettitte, who has thrown at least seven innings in 19 postseason games. "I just went out there and didn't try to do too much, looked for a pitch out over the plate and tried to stay up the middle."
Pettitte did manage to recover and kept his team within one run until Matt Wieters led off the sixth with a double. Wieters would later come around to score on an opposite-field single by Mark Reynolds in what would prove to be the decisive blow of the game.
It was a disappointing end for Pettitte, who was charged with all three runs on seven hits while striking out five and walking just one. He was eventually removed in the eighth after a leadoff single by Davis and fell just short of his goal of winning his 20th postseason game.
The loss hangs more on the offense, which went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position while stranding 10 baserunners, but that did little to ease Pettitte's frustration.
"No, because I didn't," Pettitte said when asked if he pitched well enough to win. "It was a tough game. Obviously the game came down, made the mistake to Davis that scored the two runs. I just left him a ball right in the middle of the zone to hit and that was a serious mistake by me in that situation.
"That pretty much cost us the game. Mark did a good job later in the game when they had a runner on second, inside-outing the ball trying to get the guy to third base ... Just a really good piece of hitting."
The night wasn't completely full of negatives for Pettitte. The 98 pitches thrown and seven-plus innings both marked personal highs since returning from a fractured left ankle in September. The extended outing should only help Pettitte build strength and stamina and could prove beneficial if he receives another shot during these playoffs.
Pettitte also further cemented his spot in the record books with a first-inning strikeout of Davis. That moved Pettitte into sole possession of second place on the all-time postseason leaderboard, behind John Smoltz (199). Pettitte, who struck out five to give him 178 lifetime, entered the game tied with former teammate Roger Clemens (173).
"I thought he pitched a really, really good game," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought he had really good command of his fastball, his curveball, really all of his pitches. The one inning they got to him, I thought they put some decent at-bats on him.
"The slider to Davis was probably one of the few mistakes that he made tonight, and that's kind of the difference."