Before the Luke Scott home run, before the bases-loaded were loaded in the 11th and before the Orioles were storming the field, this actually seemed like a good day for the Yankees. A very good day. Yes, there were stranded base runners in the early innings, but Andy Pettitte was the most important thing about this afternoon, and Pettitte was terrific.
“As the game went on I felt like I was coming even harder and harder off the mound as far as getting through my pitchers a little better,” Pettitte said. “All and all, in that end, it was a good day.”
Joe Girardi said before the game he was hoping for six innings out of Pettitte, and the Yankees could hardly have gotten six better innings. After allowing two-out RBI bunt single in the first inning – one that seemed to catch everyone off guard — Pettitte retired 15 of the last 17 batters he faced, including the last 11 in a row.
“There’s always a little bit of question of, are you going to be able to make those little adjustments that you need to make when you’re out there?” Pettitte said. “When you’re rushing and you know you’re rushing, sometimes it’s not that easy to fix it. I was dragging the first few innings with my arm a little bit, and I was able to get my arm warm a little bit and get it all together. I feel like I’m going to be fine.”
This was Pettitte’s first big league start since July 18. He said the weather was cool in his two minor league rehab starts, but it was pretty hot today, a good test of Pettitte’s stamina and conditioning. He actually got better as the game went deeper, and said he felt like he could have thrown another inning.
As for his groin, the biggest test was that first-inning bunt, just past the mound on the third-base side of the infield.
“I wasn’t expecting a two-out bunt from their four-hole hitter with a runner on third base,” Pettitte said. “I slipped right when I broke. My left foot went right out, the dirt kind of moved on me, and that was about as good of a test as I was going to get.”
• A quick take on Pettitte from his friend Lance Berkman: “He’s the biggest winner I’ve ever played with.”
• Mariano Rivera blew a save for the fourth time this season. “Not a good pitch for a lefty,” Rivera said. “It was down, and that’s where he pretty much makes his living. Tough loss. Having the lead and going in there and not saving the game to me is unacceptable… I didn’t do my job, and everything fell after that.”
• Two of Rivera’s blown saves came on this road trip. Of course, so did two of his saves. Pettitte said it’s a reminder that Rivera is human. Joe Girardi said he has no concerns. “He gave up a couple of runs on this road trip,” Girardi said. “It happens.”
• Given a chance to finish the road trip strong, the Yankees instead finished with a game like so many others. “This whole road trip was like this for us basically,” Girardi said. “We’re going to go through tough times in the course of a season. The good thing is we won the series and we get to go home and we’ve played well at home.”
• The Orioles have 12 walk-off wins this season, six of them since Buck Showalter became their manager.
• A few more Pettitte notes: Brian Roberts’ first-inning steal was just the second stolen base Pettitte has allowed this season… Pettitte missed out on his 29th career win against the Orioles. The only pitcher with more is Whitey Ford, who has 30… A win would have moved Pettitte past Frank Tanana for 51st place on baseball’s all-time wins list.
• Berkman was hot coming into Baltimore, but he went 2-for-13 with two GIDP this series. “Pretty terrible. It’s a crazy game. I have felt great. I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball well. Yesterday, they pitched me tough. I wasn’t really that upset about it. There was one at-bat where I felt like I should have come through, but at that point the game was out of hand anyway. Today was frustrating because I felt like I had pitches to hit. Obviously when you hit third, you’re counted on to carry a little bit more of the burden. I had a great chance to put us up there. It’s probably a different ballgame if I can.”
• Derek Jeter was excited to hear Joe Torre and Don Mattingly are scheduled to be at the stadium for Monday’s pregame ceremony honoring George Steinbrenner. “I’m sure they will be well received by everyone,” Jeter said. “I’m glad they get an opportunity to come back because I know Mr. Steinbrenner has meant a great deal to both of their careers.”
• Asked if the next four games mean a little more than most, Jeter surprised every reporter in the group. “Nah, just like all the rest,” he said. Then he started laughing. “ Of course. We’re battling for our division so these are some important games and we’ll see what happens.”
Associated Press photos of Pettitte and Ramiro Pena