Andy Pettitte, Kevin Youkilis lead Yankees past Nationals, 4-2Lefty goes six strong, Youkilis homers to start four-run fourth
After watching Hiroki Kuroda throw seven shutout innings in their Florida finale Thursday, the Yankees saw a second straight strong start from a veteran on Friday, this one courtesy of Andy Pettitte; the 40-year-old southpaw pretty much cruised through his six innings, throwing 57 of his 81 pitches for strikes and allowing two runs (just one earned) on five hits (and no walks) while striking out six.
Offensively, the Yankees' starting lineup may have been a sneak peek at Joe Girardi's regular nine against righties come Opening Day, and it gave the skipper a big fourth inning that saw four runs plated and eight men take their hacks against Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann and lefty reliever Zach Duke.
Kevin Youkilis began that inning with a solo homer, his sixth of the spring, before Travis Hafner singled and Vernon Wells doubled to put a pair in scoring position. Zimmermann struck out Lyle Overbay for the first out, but that would be the last Zimmermann would record, as Eduardo Nunez laced a two-run single - advancing to second on a the throw home - to make it 3-0, and he would later score on a Chris Stewart single that saw some slick baserunning cross up the Nats' defense.
Duke came on at that point to retire Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, but the damage had been done.
Pettitte, meanwhile, was dominant early, allowing only a pair of singles in the first three innings and ending Bryce Harper's streak of 11 straight at-bats with a hit by retiring him to start the fourth; however, the next batter after that, Ryan Zimmerman, would reach on a Kevin Youkilis error, and two batters later, Ian Desmond's two-out single plated Zimmerman to make it 4-1.
The veteran southpaw retired the next six Nats in a row before Zimmerman would vex him again, doubling with two outs in the sixth and scoring on Adam LaRoche's single, but Pettitte got Desmond to hit into a force play to end his day and keep the score at 4-2.
The final three innings were then a likely look at the end of many games come April 1, as Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson pitched a perfect pair of innings before Mariano Rivera made what will be, barring a Yankees-Nationals World Series, his final appearance at Nationals Park.
Rivera was honored by the Nats prior to the game, with ex-Yankee and current Washington closer Rafael Soriano presenting him with a signed No. 42 jersey, and The Sandman was given a rousing ovation by the appreciative DC crowd as he entered for the ninth; that frame was business as usual for "The Sandman," who struck out Chad Tracy to open the inning and needed just 10 pitches to record his first save of the spring.
Elsewhere, the Yankees got a 2-for-3 afternoon from Robinson Cano, who doubled and singled to raise his average to .344 on the spring; Wells and Nunez were also both 2-for-3, with Nunez stealing his seventh base of the spring, and Youkilis finished 1-for-2 with a walk.
And, in one final fun note, there was another streak other than Harper's that was snapped on Friday: Teddy Roosevelt's winning streak in the Nationals' famed fourth-inning Presidents Race, a run that ended at four thanks to Abe Lincoln's victory in the inaugural jaunt of 2013.
The Yankees are now 14-19-1 overall this spring, and have just one more exhibition game left before Opening Day; that comes Saturday afternoon in West Point, N.Y., when the Yankees will return to the Empire State to battle the Army Black Knights on the campus of the United States Military Academy. Adam Warren will get the start for the Yankees, and you can see that spring finale on YES with coverage beginning at 2 p.m.
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