Throughout his career with the Yankees, Andy Pettitte has developed a reputation as a man who knows how to stop the bleeding.
In several playoff appearances, the Yankees have dropped the first game of a series and then handed the ball to Pettitte to win Game Two and get the Yankees pointed back in the right direction. Pettitte has responded more often than not, burnishing his reputation as an essential part of teams that have won five titles.
The Yankees weren't playing a playoff game on Thursday night in the Bronx, but the pressure felt pretty close. Losing three straight to the Red Sox to start a season that got underway under a dark cloud would be about as worst case as a scenario could get for this Yankees team.
It isn't one they'll need to contemplate. Pettitte threw eight sparkling innings, allowing one run and striking out three to help the Yankees to a 4-2 win that ensured that they won't be going 0-162 this season.
Sure, there wasn't much chance that would happen even if Pettitte hadn't beaten the Sox but it's a necessary dose of reassurance to finally knock that big fat zero out of the win column. And, frankly, it's another dose of reassurance any time that Pettitte pitches as well as he did on Thursday because it means that the sun isn't setting on a player that remains key to the Yankees' chances.
It's clear that this Yankees team is going to rise and fall because of their pitching staff. This isn't a team that will bludgeon the opposition with their offensive might, the margins are much slimmer and much more reliant on a pitching staff that counts Pettitte as a linchpin.
So it was a pretty big start, even with 159 games left to play, and Joe Girardi said as much in the hours before the game. He managed that way too, leaving Pettitte in for eight innings and then handing the ball right to Mariano Rivera for his first save since blowing out his knee.
It's a classic combination, one that has come through for the Yankees 69 times over the years in the regular season but not since Game Two of the 2010 Division Series. If the Yankees are going to navigate their way through this season, it can't be the last.