Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Take 2 Off the Magic Number, Out of Pettitte Cash

A few years ago, when Michael Kay was still John Sterling's radio broadcast partner, rather than the lead man on the Yankees' TV broadcasts, Andy Pettitte was pitching -- it might have been the same matchup as this week, Yankees at Minnesota, although it would have been at the Metrodome rather than Target Field as now -- and Sterling said this, starting with the same condescending, "You know, (name of broadcast partner)... " that he now uses for Suzyn Waldman:

You know, Michael, if Andy Pettitte pitches, and the Yankees win, 9-5, people will say, "Andy's still got it, he's never lost it, he's really got the cutter working." But if the Yankees lose, 5-2, people will say, "Andy's lost it, he never had it, he's throwing the cutter too much." And he's pitched the same game!

Andy Pettitte has been a Yankee, off and on, since making his major league debut on April 29, 1995 -- a month before Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and 4 months before Jorge Posada -- and last night, he was going for his 208th win as a Yankee, his 245th overall.

The Yankees rewarded him for his renewed loyalty by staking him to 3 runs before he ever took the mound. Here were the first 5 batters of the game: Derek Jeter drew a walk, Ichiro Suzuki doubled, Alex Rodriguez flew out, Robinson Cano got Jeter home on a groundout, and Nick Swisher knocked one out, his 23rd home run of the year.  (And some of you were thinking we shouldn't re-sign him this coming off-season.)

Lisa Swan of "Subway Squawkers" (see link to the right) might point out that, while A-Rod did make the first out of the game, it still could have scored Jeter, but he didn't go for it. 

The Yankees got another run in the 4th, as Curtis Granderson hit his 40th home run of the season.  This made him the 5th Yankee to have 40 homers in back-to-back seasons.  You might have heard of the first 4: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi.  (Roger Maris almost made it, hitting 39 in 1960 before his record 61 in '61.) And 2 more homers in the 7th, both solo shots: The 18th of Raul Ibanez (yeah, like Pettitte, he's 40) and the 14th of Eric Chavez (34 but was also supposed to be washed up).

Andy pitched 6 shutout innings.  Joe Girardi didn't want to risk him any longer than that, as he's still working his way back up to full strength after coming off the Disabled List, and with the minor leagues' regular seasons ending, his "rehab starts" had to be at the major league level.

So Joe sent Joba Chamberlain out to pitch the 7th.  Good move, as Trampoline Boy got 3 straight easy groundouts.

Joe sent Cory Wade out to pitch the 8th.  Feasible move, as the Yankees were up 6-0.  Even Wade can't blow that lead, right? Maybe he can: The first batter he faced was Pedro Florimon, a 25-year-old Dominican shortstop appearing in his 40th major league game, with exactly zero home runs and 9 RBIs at this level to his credit.  Have I telegraphed the punch enough? (I know, I know: "What's a telegraph? Just how old ARE you, Uncle Mike?") Anyway, Florimon hit his first major league home run.  Wade got 2 outs, and THEN Girardi's binder told him to replace Wade, with Justin Thomas, who got the last out in the 8th.

Thomas got into a jam in the 9th, and Girardi's binder told him to bring in David Robertson, who let the 2 runners Thomas let on score.  But he got the last outs.

Yankees 6, Twins 3.  A bit closer than it needed to be.  Maybe Girardi should make a note in his binder: "Joba cruised through the 7th.  Next time he does that, leave him in for the 8th."

WP: Pettitte (5-3).  LP: Liam Hendricks (1-8 -- the 23-year-old Australian is now 1-10 at the major league level for his career).

*

Having to make up an earlier rainout, the Baltimore Orioles had to play a day/night doubleheader against those pesky Toronto Blue Jays.  The O's won the opener, 4-1, but lost the nightcap, 9-5.

The Yankees are now a game and a half ahead of the Orioles, 2 in the All-Important Loss Column, with 9 to play.  The Magic Number to clinch the Division is 8.

Yankees: 2 more in Minnesota, 4 in Toronto, 3 at home to Boston.

Orioles: 2 more at home to Toronto, 3 at home to Boston, 3 at Tampa Bay.

If the Yankees go 5-4 (1 game over .500) the rest of the way, the O's will have to go 6-2 just to tie for first. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head play, but they split the 18 meetings between them.  The second tiebreaker is each team's record against the AL East as a whole.  Since the Yankees still have 7 against AL East teams and all of the O's 8 remaining games are, that's still up in the air.

Who thought, going into the season, that we'd have to count on Andy Pettitte yet again? And, of those, who thought he would come through, at his age, after a one-year layoff?

Last night, the Yankees took 2 off the Magic Number, out of Pettitte Cash.

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