Andy Pettitte is most outspoken when he stinks. When he’s good, you read a lot of “aw heck” quotes, but when Pettitte loses, he’s full of fire and fury. After his past two starts, Pettitte talked about feeling “sick” and called his cutter “nonexistent.” He actually said that his biggest problem was “everything” and that he wished he had an injury to use as an excuse.
Tonight’s seven strong innings brought back the calm, rational Pettitte.
“I feel like I actually blew it way out of proportion, to tell you the truth,” Pettitte said. “The bullpens have been good, I’m feeling good about everything, and my last start my arm angle was way low for some reason. I have no idea (why), and that was obvious on the video. I felt like I just got back to my slot today. Still, I don’t think it was as great or as good as I’d like for it to be, but I had good angle on the ball today, and I was glad I was able to give us a good start.”
Joe Girardi said he saw some early cutters that told him Pettitte was back on track, and indeed, Pettitte was outstanding. He might actually have been even better than the numbers suggest (more on that in a bit). It was a great start to serve as a reminder that the previous starts weren’t complete disasters, just typical bumps in the road.
“I just did some stuff that’s very uncharacteristic of me, and so that was probably a bigger reason that I was probably so difficult on myself,” Pettitte said. “I don’t like to look at video if you have bad stuff but in this case it was good for me to see what was going on. It was good for me to see especially my last start that I had dropped my arm on all my pitches. I was losing my angle on all my pitches so I really don’t know why I was doing that. You come up with all kind of reasons. It was good to get a good angle on the ball today and give us a chance to win.”
• Why was Pettitte better than his numbers? For starters, he didn’t actually walk anyone. Lorenzo Cain was given a walk in the fifth inning, but it was actually a 2-2 pitch. The scoreboard said it was 3-2. “I know it’s 2-2, and I’m bouncing a ball in front of home plate,” Pettitte said. “Everybody in the ballpark looks at me like I’m nuts.”
• Also, when Elliot Johnson reached on an infield single in the third — he eventually scored the first Royals run — Pettitte saw the ball skip off Johnson’s leg as he ran out of the box. “Nobody else saw it,” Pettitte said. “I’m looking around at everybody and they’re looking at me like I’m crazy, but you can see the ball spinning sideways. … I asked the ump and was looking around at all the other ones and nobody would help me out. I’m the only one that can see the ball is spinning sideways? If the ball is spinning sideways it means it went off his foot.”
• I actually have a pretty bad angle up here in the press box, so I didn’t see the ball off Johnson’s leg — and I didn’t look for a replay — but the Cain walk was definitely not a walk. “We thought in the dugout it was 2-2,” Girardi said. “And then I didn’t see Stew react. A lot of times I go on the player, and he threw over about 10 times, so I thought, maybe I missed a ball. I’m not sure that I did.”
• Mariano Rivera is now 14-for-14 in save opportunities this season. This was the 70th time that he save a Pettitte win.
• This was the first time Rivera had pitched at Kauffman since last year’s injury. “I think Mo said it best,” Girardi said. “As an athlete, you can get hurt anywhere. It happened to be here. It was probably about this time that it happened, too. I’m sure that it was good for him to get out there because last year he didn’t have a chance to, and I’m sure he was thrilled about that.”
• Speaking of guys playing well, Vernon Wells is hitting again. Tonight was hit eighth home run of the season, and it was a big one to put the Yankees back in front after they’d fallen behind. “Luckily, (James Sheilds) fell behind me and had to throw fastballs,” Wells said. “But he’s as good as they come. He’s Big-Game James for a reason.”
• Was Wells sure he’d catch that last ball for the final out? Wells said he did. “Just based on where Stew set up on that pitch and some of the swings Moustakas was taking, he seemed to be on a few of those balls,” Wells said. “I had a feeling. Sometimes you’re in the outfield and reading things that go on and he took some good swings and I knew that the only place he’d most likely be hitting that ball was in the gap. I kind of shaded that way a little bit. I was in the right place.”
• Girardi said he had not talked to Brian Cashman any more about what to do with Eduardo Nunez.
• Here’s a final word from Girardi, talking about Pettitte: “I think people sometimes become too concerned about age. I really don’t believe he’s forgotten how to pitch, forgotten how to throw a cutter or locate a fastball, any of that. I always say, when you’re old or overweight – and you don’t want to be both – and you’re struggling, people are ready to say, is there something wrong? No, it’s baseball. Everybody struggles.”
Associated Press photos