Yankees 7 Rays 0
- Last Updated: 1:25 PM, June 6, 2012
- Posted: 1:04 AM, June 6, 2012
A shade over two months into the schedule the Yankees’ rotation can’t be called “CC & The Four ?’’ any longer.
Reduce the question marks to three because in five starts Andy Pettitte has raced past Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova to assume the second chair next to staff ace CC Sabathia.
When Pettitte embarked on a comeback in March after sitting out last year he said if he remained healthy he could win in the big leagues.
Last night at Yankee Stadium against the AL East-leading Rays, who made three errors, Pettitte never looked better and carried the Yankees to a 7-0 victory in front of 40,537.
“I don’t think you forget to do it as long as you aren’t too old to do it,’’ pitching coach Larry Rothschild said of Pettitte’s time away from the big leagues.
Pettitte will be 40 June 15, but last night he looked closer to 30 when the command of his pitches was sharp and a two-seam fastball especially crisp.
“I found something with it in the bullpen and Larry and I talked about it,’’ Pettitte said of the sinking fastball. “I wasn’t using it much this year. Tonight, it was running nice.’’
With his three sons in attendance, Pettitte went 7 1⁄3 innings, allowed two hits, two walks and fanned 10, which is two short of his career high.
The Yankees’ seventh win in 10 games hiked their record to 30-24 and moved them to within one-half game of the Rays and Orioles, who are tied atop the AL East.
Working on six days’ rest instead of the normal four, Pettitte received two gift runs in the first thanks to an Elliot Johnson throwing error and watched Russell Martin (3-for-4) hit a grand slam in the fourth.
When Pettitte departed in the eighth, he jogged to the dugout with a standing ovation ringing in his ears. Pettitte, who is 3-2 with a 2.78 ERA, responded with a small fist pump.
James Shields’ career-long troubles against the Yankees continued. In five innings he gave up seven runs (five earned), seven hits and walked four (one intentional).
Shields, who dropped to 6-4, is 5-13 with a 4.55 ERA in 24 starts against the Yankees.
Pettitte certainly didn’t look 39 during a stretch that spanned the second and third innings when he fanned five straight.
For the Pettitte non-believers, it must be noted the .236 team average belonging to the Rays was better than only three other big league teams going into the night. The Rays were tied with Seattle, and Oakland was last in the AL with a .213 mark. San Diego (.224) and Pittsburgh (.221) were at the bottom of the NL.
According to Martin, there is a vibe in the clubhouse when it’s Pettitte’s turn to chuck.
“I am more surprised by his attitude and his intensity than his pitching,’’ Martin said. “I feel on the days he pitches he gives a different energy to the team. It’s remarkable. It seems like he hasn’t missed a beat. I feel we are just at the surface. He’s just got to stay healthy.’’
At the beginning it was a nice story, a Yankee legend attempting a comeback during spring training when everything is possible. Now it’s more than that.
Today, Pettitte is in the second chair next to Sabathia, and the Yankees have reached the point where they are depending on Pettitte now maybe more than ever.