The Yankees simply could not have asked for more from Andy Pettitte on Saturday afternoon. Pitching for the first time since missing a start because of minor elbow inflammation, the ageless left-hander threw six and a third scoreless innings against a Twins team that must feel like it’s in “Stepford” doing battle against The Wives. Powered by Pettitte and some late-inning long ball, the Yankees defeated the Twins for the 12th consecutive time, winning 7-1 at Yankee Stadium. In beating Twins ace Francisco Liriano, Pettitte improves to 5-0 on the season.
The Yankee offense supported Pettitte early, scoring single runs in each of the first two innings. In the first, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez strung together singles to put the Yanks up, 1-0. In the second, the bottom of the order started another rally. After being hit by a pitch, Marcus Thames moved up to second on a Francisco Cervelli sacrifice (is there anything he cannot do?), and scored on Jeter’s second straight single.
Though he was not overpowering (giving up three walks while striking out two), Pettitte was highly effectual as he pitched for the first time in ten days. He encountered his biggest threat in the sixth inning, when he mysteriously threw 11 straight balls out of the strike zone and issued two-out walks to Denard “Not Emma” Span and Orlando Hudson, bringing the great Joe Mauer to the plate as the potential tying run. The game hanging in the balance, the reigning American League MVP catapulted a Pettitte pitch deep to left-center field, but Brett “The Jet” Gardner caught the dangerous drive in the middle of the warning track. Inning over.
Thrilled to watch Pettitte strike out Justin Morneau to start the seventh inning, Joe Girardi turned the game over to the enigmatic David Robertson in the seventh. Robertson recorded one out but allowed the next two runners to reach base, prompting Ron Gardenhire to summon Jim Thome as a pinch-hitter carrying the potential tying run. Limited to under 100 at-bats, Thome had hit five home runs to the tune of a .535 slugging percentage, making him a special threat on a warm day at the Stadium. Girardi, continuing to show faith in Damaso Marte despite his Friday night failures against messers Mauer and Morneau, again called on his veteran left-hander. This time Marte did as he is paid to do, striking out Thome to finish off the two-out threat.
With the Yankees holding a 3-0 lead, but the Twins still within striking distance, the Bombers went to work against the Minnesota bullpen in the seventh. Teixeira inflated the cushion by hitting a mammoth two-run home run to right field. The ball landed in the second deck, in the rare air of the luxury suites, territory that has rarely been penetrated during the one year-plus of the new Stadium’s existence. The resurgent Rodriguez tried to match Teixeira by driving a ball deep into right-center field. At first the ball seemed to have long ball distance, but it banged off the very top of the fence, forcing A-Rod to settle for a double.
Two batters later, Posada did not settle for anything, instead launching a bomb to nearly straightaway center field, the ball caroming off the bullpen wall into the center-field bleachers. With that two-run blast making it 7-0, the romp was on, allowing Girardi to call on his second-tier pitching (translated: Boone Logan) in the eighth and ninth innings and rest Chamberlain and Rivera for another day.
Yankee Doodles: Playing as the DH, Posada led the Yankee attack with three hits. Jeter, Teixeira, and Rodriguez each chipped in with a pair… Joe Mauer broke up a shutout bid with an RBI single against Logan in the eighth inning…The Twins continue to be hexed against the Yankees, and especially so in the Bronx. Since Gardenhire has become Minnesota manager, the Twins have gone 3-25 at the old and new Bronx ballparks… After dropping their weekday series with the Tigers, the Yankees’ win on Saturday guarantees another series victory. The Yankees will gun for the sweep on Sunday, albeit with the suspect Sergio Mitre starting against Nick Blackburn… The Yankees plan to activate Chan Ho Park from the disabled prior to Sunday’s game. To make room for Park, the Yankees will likely send right-hander Ivan Nova back to Scranton/Wilkes Barre. Finally, there is news on Nick Johnson and it isn’t encouraging, though that is hardly a surprise.
[Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP]