Andy Pettitte’s performance last night turned back the clock. For a span of about three hours, I felt as if I was 14 years old again. Number 46 dealing on the mound, pitching in a game against a division rival with first place on the line.
Pettitte went 7.1 innings, giving up two hits, walking two and striking out 10. Those strikeouts were the most he’s compiled at home since July 6 of 2003 against the Red Sox. In that game, Pettitte went eight innings, giving up one run and walking none. He promptly handed the ball over to Mariano Rivera for the save. Last night, Pettitte was removed from the game, and was greeted by a standing ovation – well deserved.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Pettitte, who will be 40 in a week, seems to have really learned how to be a pitcher. He no longer throws in the low to mid nineties, no longer has really sharp bite on his cutter. His control, after being out of the game for over a year, seems to be better. His cutter is slower, but has gained more sweep. His strikeouts last night were pinpointed on the corners of the plate, close enough to be called a strike, yet just out of the reach of a swinging batter.
Pettitte’s decision to return this year has nearly saved the Yankees. After last night, his ERA was reduced to 2.78, one full run lower than CC Sabathia. His Walks + Hits + Innings Pitched (WHIP) is 1.01 – Sabathia at 1.24. No one can touch Pettitte’s strikeout to walk ratio of 4.57, which so far is a career high – his next best ratio came in ’05 at 4.17. Also, Pettitte is yet to leave a game before the seventh inning. I know this is a small sample size through five starts, but where would the Yankees be without him? What was a luxury at the beginning of the season has now turned into a necessity. In my mind, Pettitte is the number two starter behind CC Sabathia, followed by Kuroda, Nova and Hughes.
Hopefully for the Yankees, Pettitte can keep up his pace at the age of 40. We’ve seen Derek Jeter turn back the clock this year, why not Andy? A real test would be to see him pitch against a team with a potent offense, such as the Texas Rangers or Boston Red Sox. Manager Joe Girardi has to be careful with Pettitte, for he has had some back problems in the past. As the dog days of summer approach, it will be interesting to see Pettitte’s season unfold. But for now, he appears to be better than ever and there when the Yankees need him most.