Pettitte strong in return as Yankees take Game One of doubleheader from Blue Jays


Did you know that prior to this game, the Yankees had lost six straight series openers? I sure didn’t, but it doesn’t matter now because they took the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Blue Jays 4-2 behind Andy Pettitte. The Bombers have won five of their last six and eight of their last 12 games.

(Jason Szenes/Getty)

Pettitte’s Return

Eighty-four days after a comebacker fractured his left leg and a few hours after Mother Nature delayed things a little longer, Pettitte returned to the mound for the Yankees on Wednesday afternoon. Despite being limited to 70-75 pitches, the 40-year-old southpaw gave his club five shutout innings on four singles, two walks, and three strikeouts. He threw exactly 75 pitches, retired the last five hitters he faced, and pitched out of jams in classic Pettitte style in the second (runners on first and third), third (first and third), and fourth (second and third) innings.

The results are obviously overwhelmingly positive, but it’s clear Andy still has some rust to shake off. His arm strength was fine early on but it did fade as his pitch count increased, plus his command wasn’t exactly precise. That’s not at all unexpected after such a long layoff. Pettitte threw first pitch strikes to 14 of 21 batters faced but also went to a three-ball count to five of the first ten hitters he faced. He got better as the game went on but still has to fine tune some things before getting all the way back to being the pitcher we know he can be. That said, what he gave the Yankees against Toronto was basically the best-case scenario for the first start off the DL. Well done.

(Jason Szenes/Getty)

Three In The First

I’m sure the plan (hope) was to jump on Henderson Alvarez right out of the chute, scoring some runs early to take the pressure on Pettitte, and the offense took care of business in the first. The first three hitters the Yankees sent to the plate had hits, the third of which was a booming line drive double by Robinson Cano over the head of Colby Rasmus in center to score a run. Alex Rodriguez tacked on another run with a ground out to first, then Curtis Granderson made it three-zip with a sacrifice fly. Everything was going according to plan …

… until it wasn’t. Alvarez settled down and retired 17 of the next 19 men he faced, cruising through the next six innings without much of a problem. He came into the game with the lowest strikeout rate (3.3 K/9 and 8.5 K%) in baseball among qualified starters, but he set a new season-high in strikeouts (seven) against the Yankees for the second time this year. Against every other team, he has a 3.1 K/9 this year. Against the Yankees, it’s 7.7 K/9. That’s annoying.

Bullpen On Parade

(Jason Szenes/Getty)

Joe Girardi is going to (predictably) catch a lot of crap for how he used his bullpen, but I thought he absolutely did the right thing. You’ve got to win the game at hand before worrying about Game Two of the doubleheader, so going to his top relievers in a three-run game was the smart move. Who knows what the next game will have in store.

Anyway, the quartet of Clay Rapada (allowed a hit to the only man he faced), Derek Lowe (retired all three men he faced), Joba Chamberlain (one hit, two outs), and Boone Logan (retired the only man he faced) did the job in the sixth and seventh innings before David Robertson came in for his customary eighth inning. Robertson was crazy shaky, turning a 3-0 game into a 3-2 game thanks to four hits, including two with two strikes and a double by the punchless Omar Vizquel. Of his 26 pitches, only two were curveballs. Rafael Soriano had to come in to bail him out (with an assist to Ichiro Suzuki) before closing things out with a scoreless ninth. The bullpen will be short tonight, but it was going to be anyway and this win is in the bank. That’s the important thing.

(Jason Szenes/Getty)


There was some insult and injury for Nick Swisher, who fouled a ball off his left foot in the first and committed two errors on one play in the third. He booted a hard-hit Brett Lawrie grounder (first error) before making a poor flip over to Pettitte covering first (second error). Chances are it didn’t cost Andy any extra pitches since Adam Lind hit into an inning-ending double play two pitches later. The foot wasn’t a major problem because Swisher stayed in the game, but he was clearly hobbling as he rounded the bases that inning. Nick did drive in an important insurance run in the eighth, so we’re square.

The Yankees appeared to have something going in the sixth inning after Cano singled with one out, but an unconventional strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play ended the threat. A-Rod took a called strike three then got in the way of Jeff Mathis as he made the throw down to second, so Cano was called out on the interference. For shame.

All seven of the team’s hits came from the top three hitters in the order. Ichiro had three, Swisher and Cano two apiece. The other six hitters in the lineup went a combined 0-for-17. The Yankees are going to need more out of the bats tonight, regardless of who is or isn’t available in the bullpen.

Soriano’s four-out save was his fifth save of three or more outs this season, or the same number he had in his entire career prior to this year. The Yankees have the right idea — if he’s going to opt-out after the season (which seems likely), might as well get your money’s worth.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings has the box score and video highlights while ESPN has the updated standings. The Yankees remain one game ahead of the Orioles in the AL East and seven ahead of the Rays, who we can probably disregard in the division race going forward. The magic number is down to 15.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

Let’s play two! These same two teams will play the second game of this day-night doubleheader in just a few hours, when David Phelps matches up against Ricky Romero.

Categories : Game Stories


  1. Better off Eddard says:

    I was ecstatic when it was announced we had a DH and that we had two big game pitchers going today. Andy showed today why he would be the 1st choice of any Yankee fan to be on the mound in an elimination game. Big Game Dave Phelps goes tonight and can hopefully give us 6-7 strong innings since Joe used everybody and their brother in this game. Robertson needs to throw his curveball, no change ups and less fastballs. You’re not Mariano, David.

    • Syrio Forel/Eddard/Occasional Troll says:

      I just looked up Phelps’s game log. Yeeeeeesh. Not a big game pitcher.

      • Joe says:

        Define big game pitcher first?

        Secondly, explain to me how many big games has Phelps been able to pitch in?

        Also see Phelps start vs. Texas in August and then say these things.

        • You mean the same game where Lowe came in for a four inning save and blanked the rangers over those 4IP? I love Phelps, but pitching 5 good innings in August and pitching well once against the 2012 Red Sox five days after not getting out of the 5th against Baltimore doesn’t scream big game pitcher to me.

          • Joe says:

            Never said he was a big game pitcher. What I meant was that he’s capable of pitching in a big game. And tonight is only big in the sense that we must win games vs. whatever opponent. Otherwise we wouldn’t call this a big game.

            The guy pitches decent. He’s a good filler and I rather throw him out there than Garcia. At least we’re developing Phelps on the go.

        • jjyank says:

          Bro, I love new blood on RAB and appreciate you becoming a regular (so far), but you can’t call ANYONE a big game pitcher in such a small sample size. Eddard is either a troll, and idiot, or quite possibly both. It’s very, very rare that he should ever be agreed with.

          • Joe says:

            Nah you misunderstood me. He’s not a big game pitcher, but he’s shown signs. I should of been more detailed.

          • Joe says:

            Also see my quote…

            “Secondly, explain to me how many big games has Phelps been able to pitch in?”

            Because in order to be a big game pitcher you need to pitch in big games. How many have you counted? I count very little.

            • jjyank says:

              Exactly, which is why the phrase “big game” and the name “David Phelps” should still be very far apart. They shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same comment at least until the dude hits arbitration. This is his rookie year and he isn’t even a top prospect.

              Yes, I’ve been impressed with him overall, but I will draw exactly zero trends about his “big game abilities” until the sample size is at least passable.

          • My vote is both. But I love him regardless.

    • jjyank says:

      Would you knock it off with the “David Phelps is a big game pitcher” stuff? I usually find humor in the ridiculousness of your posts, but this is getting absurd.

  2. So tonight we’re definitely going to get a line up consisting of Pearce, Jones, and Nix. Possibly also including McGehee and Nunez and a bullpen behind Phelps of Epply, Warren, Wade, Thomas and Garcia…thank god we won game one.

  3. Ro says:

    Best part of the Yankee wins? The epic Rafael Soriano post game interviews. That guy, man. Wow.

  4. Klemy says:

    I won’t complain much, but I did feel like Lowe could’ve went back out until he gave up a runner – which could’ve been the next hitter for all I know. Just seemed like he could give us some length with a 3 run lead.

    I was nervous Robertson was going to cough up the lead as well. Didn’t like that he stayed in to get that second strike out, but it worked out and Soriano wasn’t going to go for 5 outs. Had no one remaining to come in that could be trusted at that point so…not much there either.

    Just glad we got the win in that one.

  5. Tom Morea says:

    Excellent article, Mike. Even with Andy’s great effort today, the Yankees will undoubtedly use Sabathia to start game one in the playoffs. Unfortunately, at the present time, CC is not pitching like a game one starter!

  6. Austin Aunelowitzky (formerly Paul VuvuZuvella) says:

    Definitely a stabilizing and calming influence having Andy back, whether that is real or perceived. In this case, I’ll say perception = reality … and I’ll take it.

  7. gc says:

    “You’ve got to win the game at hand before worrying about Game Two of the doubleheader, so going to his top relievers in a three-run game was the smart move. Who knows what the next game will have in store.”

    Repeated for emphasis.

    • jjyank says:

      10% agreed. I don’t understand the whole “ZOMG it’s a double header, is Girardi an idiot for blowing these guys early?” idea. The Yankees aren’t 10 games up anymore. They were tied coming into this game, the season is wrapping up in just a couple short weeks. Win whatever game you can.

      It’s funny, what if Girardi decided not to use his top relief corps and someone of the Derek Lowe or Cody Eppley ilk blew the game in the 8th inning (not that D-Rob was sharp, but that’s beside the point). Following that, tonight’s game was a blowout. So double header in which guys like Soriano, D-Rob, or Joba potentially don’t pitch at all? Bullshit. How much flak would Girardi have caught for trying to save his bullets in game one? Go for the kill, right now. This is a tight pennant race in September. To quote myself from the game thread, “Win today. Worry about tonight in a few hours.”


    I cringe everytime pretty much any reliever besides Soriano comes out to pitch. Glad they were able to hold on for the win though. I thought for sure that D-rob was going to cough up the lead entirely in the 8th.

  9. JoeyA says:

    In November, we will find out Robertson’s elbow has been barking for 2 or so months. Book it

    A guy with a bread and butter pitch like Robertson’s CB, doesnt COMPLETELY remove it from his repetoire. This has been the case for over a month now. He barely throws it at all.

    Something is up.

    Great win regardless. Let’s finish the day strong!

  10. Ghost of Mariano Rivera says:

    Mike, ya gotta stop perpetuating this out-of-nowhere notion that Robertson’s not throwing his curveball. In this game, Robertson threw four curveballs and a changeup.

    Moreover, his curveball usage in 2012 has dropped 4% off his total last year. Hardly a game change. If anything, it’s his changeup he’s throwing less.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

      3 of the 4 curves were to the last batter he faced. He threw only one curve in his first 20 pitches today. Overall this season he’s thrown 17% curves after about 21% last year. He definitely seems more reluctant to throw the curve ball lately.

      • Ghost of Mariano Rivera says:

        His use of the curve is basically identical percentage-wise to right-handers. Against lefties, he is using it less. But both lefties and righties have improved their averages against him by similar margins this year. So I don’t think the curve has anything to do with it. It’s statistical noise.

      • Ghost of Mariano Rivera says:

        In addition, he was particularly good last year at stranding guys on base — unusually good, in fact.;players=

        That explains why his xFIP last year (2.46) was so much higher than his ERA (1.08). His xFIP this year, 2.85, is slightly higher but not as much as the ERA suggests.

    • Ghost of Mariano Rivera says:

      There’s nothing all that wrong with Robertson. His whiff rate and GB/FB ratio are stable from last year, his pitch selection is virtually the same, the movement on his pitches hasn’t changed, his velocity is down a tick, his walk rate has actually plummeted, his strikeout rate is in line with his career rate, etc. Robertson is probably just regressing to the mean.

  11. paul a says:

    Its just Andy being Andy…great job !
    P.S. I like Irchiro in the leadoff spot I wish Joe would keep him there.

  12. I liked how Kay and Singleton basically went on air begging Girardi to start Ichiro against Romero and not play the disgusting Andruw Jones. “Smiley” came in and didn’t run out a ball that Vizquel actually trapped and ended up 1/3 of way down the line as an unassisted putout was recorded. Why is this guy still on the team? He’s worthless and just infuriates me everytime I see him loafing out in the field and smiling as he pops up to rightside or K’s.

    • Ichiro hits .380 off Romero–but they were both relegated to expect the piece of crap to be in LF tonight.

    • paul a says:

      I couldn’t agree more, he looks as if hes just hangin out with the boys to collect a pay check. I pray to god hes not on the post season roster.

      • G says:

        Pray as you may, it’s almost as futile as Jones himself. Time and time again we see veteran presents over youth. It’s really the biggest flaw I see in Girardi and Cashman’s game plan. There’s nothing wrong with stockpiling veterans to find hidden gold, like 2011 Jones or 2012 Chavez. In fact, it’s an excellent strategy. However, there’s a certain point at which you just have to realize the results aren’t there and give more opportunities to younger guys. $4M of deadweight on the roster may look bad, but you still run the better player out there every time.

        Granted the youth option is basically Dickerson and Nunez, but I’d still give them every chance possible. Maybe they aren’t the best known entities on the team, but anything is better than what Raul and Jones have given lately.

        • Apparently C-Dick is like 31…that’s not exactly young.

          • RetroRob says:

            Correct, although he’s “only” 30. He does possess younger skills in that he runs well and is a good defender, something the Yankees should use. I’d rather see them platoon Dickerson and Mesa for a bit since the Jones and Ibanez combo is past fumes. They’re both streaky hitters and they can get hot in a flash, but it’s been awhile.

  13. The Real Greg says:

    Lineup has been posted.


  14. Jose M. Vazquez says:

    Pettitte showed his savvy as most of the time in important games. The catch,a game saving catch, could only have been made by Ichiro or Gardner. Anyone else and the game is gone. That lineup if it is true, shows some promise.

  15. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    Did Nunez play this afternoon? Why isn’t he playing tonight?

  16. RetroRob says:

    The issue with Girardi was not that he was trying to win the game (when is he not?), and the issue wasn’t going to D-Rob in the 8th. As usual he seemed to be going overboard with the matchups.

    Yet it all worked out fine in the end. Unfortuantely the high pitch/stress counts from D-Rob and Soriano probably mean neither is available tonight. Maybe Joba is since he only threw to two batters.

    • Joe says:

      Fox’s Ken Rosenthal said we might can Girardi for Tito if we miss the playoffs, or don’t win the division.

      I don’t see it, but I don’t even really think a managerial change would matter all too much. Every manager seems to be a liability for their team except for a rare few. At least that’s how the fans perceive managers.

      I’m indifferent.

      • jjyank says:

        Agreed about the concept of managers. I believe over the course of the season, managers have very little impact on the standings. Maybe a couple managers squeeze a couple extra wins out, while a couple more lose a few more. I don’t think it’s that significant.

  17. dalelama says:

    Nice to see our Old Purple Lipped $25M per year slap hitter did everything he could to give the game away.

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