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Postgame Notebook: Pettitte's outing overshadowed by Jeter's return

After rough first inning, Pettitte regrouped to get the win over Kansas City
07/11/2013 6:13 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Andy Pettitte gave up four earned runs over his 5 2/3 innings on Thursday.(AP)
After Andy Pettitte gave up three runs in the first inning, it looked like it might be a long day for Yankees fans in the Bronx – but after Derek Jeter got their first hit of the day, the rest of the team picked up their Core Four compadres and eventually cruised to an 8-4 win over the Royals that salvaged a series split.

By the time the Yankees’ Captain made his official return with an infield single, his team was already down 3-0 courtesy of a Salvador Perez double and a Lorenzo Cain sac fly – but outside of that trouble, manager Joe Girardi thought that Pettitte pitched well.

“I thought he threw the ball pretty well actually,” the skipper said. “We didn’t make that bunt play in the first and they got some runs, and we didn’t make it again in the second…he gave up a few runs, but if we make those plays, Andy probably could’ve given up only one run in almost six innings.”

Pettitte, however, was a little harder on himself.

“I felt good, and it was a good win for us…but it’s the same old story for me, as far as getting in trouble early with bunts I’m not able to make plays on,” Pettitte said. “You’ve been listening to me talk about it for six weeks. I gave up four runs early and felt like I put us in a huge hole, and with Santana over there you don’t know what you’ll be able to do because he’s been really tough lately, but it was a great team win.”

The first bunt play came courtesy of Alcides Escobar, who made a perfect bunt to put two runners on with no one out, and the second came an inning later off the bat of David Lough – a move that led to the Royals’ fourth run when Pettitte’s flip went wide of first, allowing Lough to get to second and eventually score on Escobar’s single.

“The one in the first…they’re push bunting balls by me and I’m not getting there. Usually Robby and Lyle cover me, but right now we’re not getting it done,” Pettitte said. “The second one was just a perfect bunt; I know I’m not that fleet afoot – I wish I had Mo’s quickness off the mound – but the second one was a bunt down the line and I have to scoop it and flip it, and I wasn’t able to make the toss there. It’s frustrating.”

After that, though, Pettitte settled in and didn’t allow another run before leaving with two outs in the fifth, finally getting into a rhythm he thought he’d be in from the start.

“I felt comfortable, I felt my bullpen before the game was as good as it was all year, and I couldn’t have been more confident in my stuff,” he said. “Gordon hit a good hitter down and away, the routine ground ball you think is a double play isn’t, and next thing you know they’re ahead…I’m just glad I could grind through this and we were able to get a win.”

Pettitte got the win to finish the first half with a 7-6 record and a 4.40 ERA, but he said that he knows he needs to be better in the second half and give his team a chance to win every time he pitches.

“My first half was not very good, and not what I expected I’d do,” the lefty said. “It started off real good, and then I had some back problems, but my last six starts my body has cooperated and I feel good physically, so I hate it that I haven’t gotten into a real good stretch like I thought I would. I’m just looking forward to the second half; I think things will get better, and if not, I’ll just keep battling like I’m doing and hopefully help this team win.”

A few other notes of interest from the Yankees’ penultimate series finale of the first half:

-Derek Jeter’s return was the big story of the day, and both his skipper and his Core Four mate were happy to see him.

“It’s awesome to have him back out there,” Pettitte said. “He’s just so positive, and he’s a guy we need; we need his leadership ability, and it was good to see him back out there.”

“I think guys are excited that he’s back; he’s been such a big part of this organization for so long and it was great to see him,” Girardi added. “It was nice to put his name in the lineup, and hopefully I get to do it again tomorrow.”

-Of course, after going 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, Jeter left the game with tightness in his right quad and is headed for an MRI (which you can read more about here), but Girardi thought his Captain had a successful debut overall: “I thought he played well; he got a hit, scored a run, drove in a run…I’ll take that every day.”

-Jeter’s thoughts about his first hit of the season sparking an offensive rally? “My job has always been to get on base and score runs. That’s the way it’s always been, and I try to do my job.”

-Brett Gardner, who left yesterday’s game after getting hit by a pitch in the shin and was one of the guys whose status caused Jeter to be activated early, ended up pinch-hitting for the Captain in the eighth, and Girardi said that he thinks Gardner will be available Friday but still isn’t sure about Travis Hafner.

-Last word goes to the skipper, talking about whether he was nervous watching Jeter run out that infield single in the first inning: “I think you’re always a little bit nervous when a guy comes back from a leg injury; it’s like when a guy comes back from a rib injury, you’re going to watch his swing cautiously, or with a pitcher you’re going to watch his delivery. Whatever area was hurt, you’re always going to be a little bit concerned, but the further removed you get from the injury, the less you watch.”

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