Pettitte earns victory in 1st game back from injury
The Andy Pettitte on the mound Wednesday was the pitcher the Yankees have missed since June 27. In his first game back since he suffered a fractured left fibula that afternoon, Pettitte gave the Yankees five shutout innings in a 4-2 victory over the Blue Jays. Could anyone ask for more?
The lefthander had his share of base runners by allowing four hits and two walks, but he pitched out of difficulty each time as the Blue Jays stranded six runners and were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position against Pettitte.
“There’s a lot of experience there,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He knows how to get it done.”
Girardi had Pettitte on a 75-pitch count limit, and Andy pitched to that exact number. He was a model of efficiency. The only glitch by Pettitte was failing to cover first base on a ground ball that might have been a double play but did not prove damaging.
“It felt good to get out there and give the team a decent outing,” Pettitte said. “My command was not as sharp, but it was a good win, and I will take it.”
So will the Yankees. Normally, a pitcher coming back from injury gets rehabilitation starts in the minors, but with the minor-league season over Pettitte is coming back in the heat of a division race.
Expressing their joy at having Pettitte back in the rotation, the Yankees jumped on Toronto starter Henderson Alvarez for three runs in the first inning on singles by Ichiro Suzuki and Nick Swisher, an RBI double by Robinson Cano, a run-scoring infield out by Alex Rodriguez and a sacrifice fly by Curtis Granderson.
Alvarez stiffened after that and allowed only two hits and no more runs through the seventh. Things got dicey in the seventh, however, as David Robertson was tagged for two runs, and Rafael Soriano was summoned to get a four-out save. Suzuki did his part with a lunging catch of a hard liner by Rajai Davis with the bases loaded for the third out of the eighth.
“I didn’t know if he caught it with his glove or with his stomach,” Girardi said.
“It had to be my glove because I don’t have a stomach,” Ichiro joked.
The ball actually hit the body-fat-less Suzuki’s glove, banged against his chest and back into the glove as he fell to the ground, a lead-saving play.
Suzuki also scored an important insurance run in the eighth. Swisher was driving me crazy by taking so many pitches against lefthander Darren Oliver while Suzuki was standing on second base after a two-out double. There was a big run out there to knock in, and Swish seemed to be looking for a walk with a left-handed batter (Cano) on deck. But Swisher took a big cut on 3-2 and smoked a single past third baseman Brett Lawrie.
It was also to Pettitte’s advantage that few players know how to bunt anymore. On the mound for five innings was a 40-year-old pitcher who had a broken bone near his left ankle and not a single Blue Jays player dropped down a bunt until Anthony Gose attempted a sacrifice in the seventh – two innings after Pettitte was out of the game!