Just under a month ago, Andy Pettitte looked finished. Heading into the All Star Break, he had just suffered through his second straight start of six earned runs, and against the Angels on July 11, he couldn’t make it out of the 5th inning.
At the time, the Yankees, I wrote, had an Andy Pettitte problem. Pettitte hadn’t been giving the Yankees much of anything — innings, quality starts or hope. And so in grand River Ave. Blues fashion, as soon as we wrote off Andy Pettitte, the Yanks’ veteran lefty turned his season around.
Since the start of the second half, Andy Pettitte is only 1-1, but since when do won-loss records tell the whole story? The Yanks are 3-2 in games Pettitte has started, and his numbers are quite impressive. In five starts, he has thrown 33.2 innings or just under 6.2 innings per start. He has allowed just 25 hits and nine walks while pitching to a 1.87 ERA. He has 33 strike outs in those 33.2 innings, and opponents are hitting just .210/.264/.269 against him. He hasn’t allowed a home run since Nick Markakis blasted one with one out in the first inning on July 20, a span of 33.1 innings.
So then, is Andy Pettitte back? It’s tough to say. Those 33.2 innings are sure looking impressive, but we can’t draw any conclusions from just five starts. He’s on a great run, and we can only hope it continues.
As Pettitte got outs though, as he matched Jon Lester zero for zero yesterday, his importance to the Yanks’ October success grew and grew. Right now, the Yanks have a 6.5 game lead with 51 games left. Their magic number is 46. They have the biggest lead in baseball right now, and if the lead expands over the next few weeks, they can begin to look at lining things up for the post-season.
Inevitably, gearing up for October will involve answering a few tough questions surrounding Joba Chamberlain. The Yanks’ youngster is at 115.2 innings and will soon be facing his innings limit. We don’t know what it is, but it can’t be much more than 160. With the Yanks enjoying a 6.5-game lead and with Pettitte healthy, effective and pitching lights out baseball, the team can afford to give Joba some extra time off.
The Yanks have eight weeks of regular season baseball left, and right now, it’s all clicking. As Pettitte goes, so will the rest of the rotation. While it’s early yet to look toward October, with Joba on an innings limit, October has to play into the equation right now. I’ll gladly embrace that Andy Pettitte renaissance as the home stretch approaches.