As one veteran has faltered of late, the New York Yankees are hoping another can deliver in his return.
Andy Pettitte makes his first start in nearly three months Wednesday when the Yankees open a three-game series with a day-night doubleheader against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays.
Owning a 10-game lead atop the AL East at one point, it could have been argued the Yankees (83-63) might not have missed the 40-year-old left-hander that much after he suffered a fractured ankle on a line drive off the bat of Cleveland's Casey Kotchman on June 27.
But with CC Sabathia losing three of his last four starts and New York now tied with Baltimore atop the division, Pettitte (3-3, 3.22 ERA) will be thrown right into the mix in the first game after throwing 55 pitches in a simulated game Sept. 11.
Manager Joe Girardi likely will limit Pettitte to 70 pitches, and Tuesday's rainout made the left-hander more antsy to get back on the mound.
"I ain't gonna lie to you, I'm tired of talking about it," he told the Yankees' website after the rainout was made official. "I just want to go out there and pitch, and hopefully give this team a chance to win that ballgame (Wednesday), and move forward from there.
"I'm just ready to get out there. It's all about mechanics out there and getting into a good rhythm, stuff like that, so I think all that's going to be fine."
Pettitte did not face the Blue Jays this year before getting hurt. He is 21-12 versus Toronto - his second-most victories against any team - but is only 6-7 in 19 home starts.
The Yankees seem to have found some solid footing of late, taking two of three from both Boston and Tampa Bay, capped by a 6-4 victory over the Rays on Sunday when Russell Martin 's three-run homer highlighted a five-run third.
The Blue Jays pushed Tuesday's scheduled starter Ricky Romero (8-14, 5.87) to the nightcap of this twinbill, opting to send Henderson Alvarez (9-12, 4.91) to face Pettitte. The right-hander is trying to match a season high by winning a third straight start, also accomplished April 29-May 10.
Alvarez has been given 13 runs of support in his previous two outings and limited Seattle to three runs and five hits in seven innings of an 8-3 win Thursday. He failed to register a decision in either of his two starts versus the Yankees this year, giving up six runs and 10 hits - three of them home runs - in 9 1-3 innings.
While Alvarez has had some issues against the Yankees, Romero has had plenty versus New York - and every opposing team for nearly three months.
The left-hander is 0-13 with a 7.91 ERA in 14 starts since beating Miami on June 22, and his losing streak has tied a club record established by Tom Underwood from Aug. 28, 1978-June 10, 1979. New York has made a significant contribution to Romero's stretch of misery, giving him three of those defeats by reaching him for 11 runs in 20 innings.
Romero's woes continued versus Seattle on Wednesday, when he allowed three runs and eight hits with four walks and was pulled after four-plus innings in a 3-2 defeat. Despite the ongoing futility, manager John Farrell refuses to give up on the pitcher who won 42 games his first three years in the majors.
"We're not abandoning Ricky Romero ," Farrell said. "We're going to continue to work with him, we're going to continue to finish this year on a positive note and that is our intent going forward."
Romero is trying to avoid becoming the first pitcher to lose 14 consecutive decisions as a starter in a single season since Mike Parrott did so with the Mariners in 1980, accomplishing that dubious feat in 15 starts spanning April 15-Sept. 13, 1980.
Curtis Granderson , whose next home run will make him the first Yankee outfielder to have back-to-back 40-homer seasons since Mickey Mantle in 1960-61, is 4 for 21 with one home run and eight strikeouts versus Romero. Jayson Nix , though, is 7 for 12 with a double.
With no off days until the end of the regular season, the rainout forced Girardi to shuffle his rotation, and he will use rookie David Phelps (4-4, 3.39) in the second game. The right-hander pitched two-thirds of an inning versus Tampa Bay Sunday in relief, giving up one hit and one walk, but got a win in his last start Sept. 12 by limiting Boston to one run in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-4 victory.
Phelps's lone outing versus Toronto came Aug. 27, when he yielded four runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings of an 8-7, 11-inning loss.
The Blue Jays will be without shortstop Yunel Escobar after the team suspended him for three games Tuesday for wearing eye-black displaying a homophobic slur written in Spanish during Saturday's game against Boston.
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|September 16, 2012||Edwin Encarnacion||Day-to-Day||Sore right big toe|
|September 04, 2012||J.A. Happ||15-Day DL||Fractured right foot|
|August 27, 2012||Henderson Alvarez||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shin contusion|
|August 27, 2012||Aaron Laffey||Day-to-Day||Left game - left calf contusion|
|August 26, 2012||Jose Bautista||15-Day DL||Left wrist inflammation|
|August 23, 2012||David Cooper||15-Day DL||Upper back soreness|
|New York Yankees|
|September 09, 2012||Mark Teixeira||Day-to-Day||Strained left calf|
|September 02, 2012||Curtis Granderson||Day-to-Day||Right hamstring tendinitis|
|August 27, 2012||Mark Teixeira||Day-to-Day||Strained left calf|
|August 22, 2012||Ivan Nova||15-Day DL||Right shoulder tightness|
|August 22, 2012||Ivan Nova||15-Day DL||Right shoulder tightness|
|August 17, 2012||Mark Teixeira||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
NEW YORK (AP) -- Andy Pettitte was a little unsettled by an uncharacteristically thin crowd at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday afternoon compared to the raucous environment found at many of his big September and October starts. Still, the 40-year-old lefty was pumped to finally be back on the mound when it mattered most to his team.
Pettitte pitched five sparkling innings in his return from a broken leg and Ichiro Suzuki made a difficult catch to preserve a lead, keeping New York atop the AL East with a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.
"The beginning of the game it was almost like you could hear people talking - I'm just trying to focus," Pettitte said. "I think for me it probably would've been better if we had a packed house."
Pettitte (4-3) looked his old steely self in giving up four hits in his first September start since 2010. Injured on June 27, the postseason career wins leader boosted the Yankees into a half-game division lead over the pesky Baltimore Orioles .
"When you see these guys go through what they've been going through, and I've been sitting here watching and just trying to cheerlead for them, it's great to be able to go out there and feel like you contributed," he said.
Rafael Soriano escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth after Toronto closed to 3-2, and New York extended a winning streak to three for the first time since Aug. 13-15.
In the sparsely attended makeup of a game washed out Tuesday night, Suzuki had three hits batting leadoff as Derek Jeter was given the opener off. Despite being bothered by a sore left ankle, Jeter started at shortstop for the first time in a week in the nightcap.
Robinson Cano had an RBI double in a three-run first against Henderson Alvarez (9-13) that also included Alex Rodriguez 's run-scoring groundout and Curtis Granderson 's sacrifice fly.
Pettitte threw 75 pitches in his first start since a line drive off the bat of Cleveland's Casey Kotchman broke his left fibula. Then manager Joe Girardi mixed and matched liberally, using six relievers
Clay Rapada , Derek Lowe , Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan held Toronto scoreless through seven innings. Then David Robertson gave up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson and a run-scoring double to Omar Vziquel in the eighth.
"Our bullpen guys understand they can be used at any point," Girardi said.
Soriano relieved with two outs and runners on second and third, then walked Anthony Gose after a foul drive about a foot foul down the left-field line that just missed being a two-run double. Rajai Davis followed with a sinking liner to left field that Suzuki caught against his stomach for the third out.
"I'm glad I don't have a big belly because if I did it might've hit the belly and popped out," Suzuki said through a translator.
Nick Swisher had an RBI single in the bottom half. Soriano pitched a perfect ninth for his 41st save in 44 chances.
Toronto's 45-year-old Vizquel had two hits to move past Babe Ruth for 41st on the career list at 2,874.
"I think when you get a hit to tie one of the best hitters in baseball, it's an amazing feeling. I mean, this guy has been a legend in the game for a long time and, to mention my name right next to his just makes me feel so little," Vizquel said. "I never thought, never, ever, in my career of baseball that's been a long one, that I was gonna come close, to even compare my hits with the Babe. It's just unbelievable. It's very emotional, especially here in New York, the house that he built."
The Blue Jays, playing their first doubleheader against the Yankees since 1986, were without Yunel Escobar , who began a three-game suspension for wearing eye black displaying anti-gay slur written in Spanish during a game last weekend against Boston.
With ace CC Sabathia struggling and the Orioles refusing to lose, the Yankees are looking to Pettitte to help lead them to the playoffs.
Pettitte was in fine form in his return from retirement, going 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA before his injury, and all throughout his rehab for his leg insisted his arm felt good. And he felt that way afterward Wednesday.
"My arm feels great. My break area feels great. I'm a hundred percent," Pettitte said. "Just real happy with how my arm is feeling. More than anything it's my legs. I just got to get my legs back in shape."
Pettitte struggled a bit with his command, walking two, but kept the Blue Jays from hitting the ball hard with a biting breaking ball. He put runners on in each of his first four innings and had runner on third in the second through fourth innings. But he got timely groundouts in the second, third - a double play - and fourth to avoid trouble.
"He gave us everything that we asked for," Girardi said.
NOTES: Alvarez allowed five hits in seven innings and struck out a career-high seven. ... Toronto DH Edwin Encarnacion (sore right big toe) was not in the starting lineup for the opener. ... The Blue Jays will play another doubleheader Monday, making up an Aug. 26 postponement at Baltimore. They will play nine games in seven days. ... To make room for Pettitte on the 40-man roster, the Yankees recalled RHP Dellin Betances from the minors and placed him on the 60-day DL.