New York Yankees starter Andy Pettitte looks well on his way to being ready to be a major contributor for the squad should they reach the postseason. The Bombers took a step closer to claiming the American League East crown last night aided by Pettitte’s six scoreless innings and four home runs.
When Pettitte went down with the ankle fracture he had been pitching as well as anyone in the rotation. In eleven innings since his return, he’s allowed zero runs, eleven hits and three walks while striking out three batters in each start. Last night he may not have had his best stuff, but he showed why he is so valuable, as he managed to get outs when he needed them and didn’t allow the Twins to chip away at the Yankees lead.
That lead was built using the power game. Nick Swisher homered for the second straight game and third time in his last five; a two-run blast in the first inning scoring Ichiro Suzuki, just after Robinson Cano plated a run with a ground out. This gave Pettitte a three-run lead to work with and it was refreshing to see a starter go out and take advantage of an early cushion.
Curtis Granderson launched his 40th homer of the season in the fourth inning becoming the just the fifth Yankee in history to have back-to-back 40-homer seasons. In the seventh, Raul Ibanez continued his hot streak with a solo shot and Eric Chavez blasted his 14th home run of the season two batters later to knock Twins starter Liam Hendriks from the game and give the Yankees a 6-0 lead.
Joba Chamberlain tossed a scoreless seventh as he continues to round into form and could be gaining momentum toward a playoff roster spot. Cory Wade on the other hand will likely not be a part of a postseason ‘pen as he allowed a solo homer to Pedro Florimon, his first Major League home run. The combination of Justin Thomas and David Robertson allowed two more runs over the final four outs with Robertson serving up a two-out two-run triple scoring both inherited runners. With a big lead, the game never seemed in true peril as Robertson recorded the final out without further damage.
The Yankees (89-64) now hold a 1 1/2 game lead (two in the loss column) in the AL East race over the Baltimore Orioles (88-66) who split a double-header with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Yanks and O’s had not been separated by more than one game in three weeks.