Tonight, I was reminded of that day in spring training when Andy Pettitte stood in the back of the visiting clubhouse in Lakeland and answered a series of big-picture questions about whether the Yankees should actually expect to win with this injury depleted roster.
“Based on some of the questions that you guys are asking me, I would say there might be a little doubt in this room besides with me,” Pettitte said that day. “I think everybody (on the team) is on board with me.”
Pettitte sounded just as defiant — just as sure — after tonight’s win.
“This is what I expected,” he said. “I’ll just tell you, I expected us to be successful. I expected us to pitch well, and I feel like if we’re going to pitch well, it takes a lot of pressure off the hitters also. And they’ve come out and have gotten off to a great start, some of the new guys here, and that’s huge. Everyone we brought in here is veteran guys, and I just think that they all feel very comfortable here in this clubhouse. It’s just a good fit. I had a real good feel. I don’t know what we’re going to do exactly, but I had a real good feel about what we were going to be able to do if we could keep guys healthy. Hopefully we can continue to do that. We’re playing really good right now and hopefully keep everybody on our staff healthy and keep pitching the way we are, and I think we’ll be just fine.”
Clearly the Yankees aren’t healthy — I think Pettitte was referring strictly to the pitching staff when he said “keep guys healthy” — but the Yankees are winning. They’ve taken eight of their last 10. They lead the American League in home runs. Pettitte and CC Sabathia have three wins apiece.
For Pettitte, this is the third 3-0 start of his career.
“I feel good,” he said. “There’s no doubt I feel good with all my pitches. My sides have all been really good. I feel like I’ve been able to get is deep in the games. So, really, you want to hold it. I just want to be able to command both sides of the plate. I wasn’t getting my fastball in quite as consistent tonight as I would like to, but again, hopefully I can go a few starts here with being able to get my normal work in as far as training and everything like that and my bullpens where I feel like I can kind of get everything all together.”
• The Yankees have 25 home runs and have homered in 13 of their first 15 games. Tonight’s three home runs were all solo shots, including homers from former Blue Jays Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay, who were booed mercilessly. “It’s kind of like a family when you come back here,” Wells said. “There’s some family members that like you, and some that really don’t.”
• The other home run came from Travis Hafner, who has five this season, tied with Robinson Cano for the team lead. Hafner is second on the team with 10 RBI.
• Off to a rough start, Ichiro Suzuki had two doubles tonight and has his average up to .213 (which is actually great considering where it was a few days ago). “I think he is getting going,” Girardi said. “You’ve seen him get a couple hits coming into tonight. He had a hit the night before and the night before, then he gets two tonight. I feel like he’s starting to heat up and we need him.”
• Robinson Cano had three hits including the 339th double of his career. That ties him with Bill Meusel for 10th place on the Yankees all-time doubles list. He’s now reached base in 13 of 15 games.
• Pettitte pitched his 420th game as a Yankee, tying him with Sparky Lyle for sixth place on the team’s all-time games pitched list.
• Speaking of Pettitte, he hadn’t pitched in 10 days and said he felt that early in the game. “I felt like I hadn’t pitched all year to tell you the truth,” he said. “Just trying to control my emotions and stuff like that. Took me a few innings to settle in. Was overthrowing a little bit early.”
• As for Pettitte’s back: “It’s still in the back of my head, you don’t want to go out there and have a problem,” he said. “It’s just please, don’t have another problem with this thing, because we rested it pretty good, and if we had another problem we might have had to do something different with this thing. It was good to get a couple plays early on, move around a little bit, test it out. … I’ll probably still be a little careful with it as far as my work over the next couple days. Especially probably running on the turf, stuff like that. I felt good tonight, I didn’t have any problems with it at all, but I want to make sure it’s nothing I aggravate, or flare back up, that could give me a problem in my next start.”
• On the Jose Bautista home run: “Pretty good pitch on the outside corner,” Pettitte said. “Pretty impressive. After I throw a lot of balls in on him, and him to be able to stay on a ball on the black away and drive it like that, it’s why this guy has been hitting 50 home runs every year for a couple of years. It’s amazing.”
• Pettitte threw only 90 pitches and said he was surprised to be pulled in the eighth. “It’s a long year, we’ve got a six-run lead and Shawn (Kelley) hasn’t pitched in a while,” Girardi said. “We’re going to need everyone, so I said this makes sense to pull him right now.”
• Brandon Morrow had pitched 16 consecutive scoreless innings against the Yankees. Of course, all of the Yankees he’s used to facing are either gone or on the DL right now. “We’ve seen him extremely tough on us and get stronger as the game goes on,” Girardi said. “I thought it was real important (to get to him early), and our guys did a real good job. Haf got us going, in a sense, with the double down the line. We did a real good job.”
Associated Press photos