My impression is that for much of this year and last, Andy Pettitte has pitched pretty well without particularly great stuff – he has decent control, usually, and he knows what he’s doing out there, and so I remember writing a lot of sentences that began something like, “Pettitte wasn’t sharp tonight, but…”
Well, this wasn’t one of those games. Pettitte was excellent Tuesday night, carrying the Yankees to a 5-0 win, and the fact that this outing came against the Devil Rays is no longer any sort of disclaimer. He went eight innings and allowed just four hits – two of them infield singles, another a bloop. There were some very good (by Yankee standards) plays made behind him, sure, but he was dominant, throwing not just a ton of strikes but really nasty, tricky strikes, exactly where he wanted them. Pettitte’s only remotely tough inning was the seventh, when with Rays on first and third and two outs, he induced Willy Aybar to hit a grounder towards the gap between third and short -- at which point Derek Jeter made a terrific play (you heard me), ranging far to his right to snag the ball, then executing his patented twisting jump-throw to nail the runner at second and end the inning.
Pettitte was only half of a tense pitcher's duel that lasted five innings: Scott Kazmir had very, very impressive stuff, though in the end he wasn't all that efficient. (Even after all this time I'm reluctant to even mention the name “Scott Kazmir” because it still sends my Mets fan friends into such fits of seething rage. Every GM makes mistakes but I can’t help feeling that if I were Steve Phillips I would forgo the ESPN commentating and dedicate my life to charity and self-abnegation in a futile bid for karmic redemption). For a while there it looked like Kazmir might be gearing up for a no-hitter, he was plowing through the Yankees’ Giambi-less, Damon-less, Matsui-less lineup with such ease. But he flashed a little mortality in the third, when Robinson Cano and Jose Molina managed consecutive singles and, after two frustrating outs, Captain Intangibles himself drove both runners in with a double to right field.
The game stayed taut until the eighth, when the Yanks tacked on off of Rays relievers Gary Glover (good pitcher name, there, vastly better than teammate Grant Balfour’s) and Jason Hammel. Melky Cabrera semi-redeemed himself after some thoroughly lousy earlier ABs with a home run, and Jeter singled, then scored from first on Abreu’s double. After sliding home, Jeter stayed down for a very long second, and I thought for sure he was injured, but apparently not – he gathered himself, got up, and walked back to the dugout with no visible limp, and no one on the Yankees' staff seemed concerned. Obviously Jeter had a very nice game overall, but in that one moment, it really looked like he was either in significant pain or just bone-tired.
Anyway, after that Mariano Rivera sat down, Edwar Ramirez stood up, Cano eventually singled in Abreu, and the Yanks took a one game lead in their season series against the Rays; they’re now 7.5 games out of first place, and still 4.5 out of the Wild Card (hey, Twins… knock it off!).
I clicked over to SNY after the game to try to get the Mets highlights, and the dudes on SportsNite were all saying that this was a “statement game” by the Yanks. Hmmm… maybe, maybe not. Isn’t it pretty to think so?