Not a dandy Andy

From the beginning Sunday, it was an uneasy outing for Andy Pettitte against the Athletics in the finale of the homestand. The lefthander had trouble at the beginning of nearly every inning. He let the leadoff hitter reach base in the first four innings. In the fifth, the one inning in which he got the leadoff hitter out, Pettitte ended up allowing two runs on Yoenis Cespedes’ fifth home run of the season.

That was one of two long balls yielded by Pettitte. The other was a solo shot by designated hitter Luke Montz leading off the third. Montz had doubled off Pettitte leading off the second. Pettitte pitched out of the stretch almost continually during his 100-pitch outing in which he gave up four runs (three earned), five hits, four walks and hit a batter as his ERA climbed to 4.06.

“The issue is everything,” Pettitte said after the Yanks’ 5-4 loss. “It was just a battle out there. I had no command of my fastball. My release point is floating, and my cutter is nonexistent right now.”

The first run off Pettitte was not earned due to a wild throw to first base by Robinson Cano, the second baseman’s first error of the season. Cano got the run right back in the bottom of the third by following a two-out double by Brett Gardner with a single to center.

Pettitte’s early departure created the opportunity for recent Triple A call-up Preston Claiborne to make his major-league debut. Claiborne was impressive his first time out with a perfect sixth and seventh before giving way to Boone Logan, who ended up the loser for allowing a solo home run to Josh Donaldson in the eighth that unlocked a 4-4 score.

“Those were two important innings,” Yankee manager Joe Girardi said of Claiborne’s work.

The Yankees suffered another injury as shortstop Eduardo Nunez was removed from the game in the fifth inning because of an irritated left ribcage. Results of an MRI were negative. The Yanks hope this will not be an extended injury. They are headed for an inter-league series at Denver where they could be short-handed since pitchers must hit in those games. Jayson Nix will play shortstop and newly-acquired Chris Nelson third base. Nix had been taking ground balls at first base as part of his utility role but will be needed to play regularly with Nunez sidelined.

The Yankees got Pettitte off the hook with three runs in the sixth as A’s lefthander Jerry Blevins faltered in relief of starter Dan Straily against two left-handed hitters. Blevins hung a 1-2 curve to Ichiro Suzuki, who doubled into the right-field corner to drive in one run. After Nix struck out for the second out, Lyle Overbay, who had a strong homestand, won an eight-pitch battle and singled to center to knock home the tying runs.

Overbay, who is batting .368 in a five-game hitting streak with a triple, two homers and six RBI in 19 at-bats, had the Yankee Stadium crowd of 38,134 on its feet again in the eighth when he flied out to the warning track in right-center with two runners aboard for the third out. Gardner’s two-out single in the ninth off A’s closer Grant Balfour gave Cano another at-bat, but after a wild pitch Cano was intentionally walked before Vernon Wells ended the game by striking out.

Another good relief effort came from Shawn Kelley in the ninth after Josh Reddick doubled off Logan to start the inning. Kelley got the next three batters, two of them on strikeouts. Reddick’s hit was significant, by the way.

Reddick did not start Sunday, which was no surprise based on several factors. For one, Reddick bats left-handed, and the Yankees’ starting pitcher was the left-handed Pettitte (oddly, they have never faced each other). For two, Reddick is off to an awful start (.148 in 88 at-bats). For three, he had been worthless at Yankee Stadium. Reddick, a late-inning defensive replacement in right field, had the longest hitless streak of any batter in the history of the current Stadium covering 33 at-bats (22 with the A’s and 11 with the Red Sox), which ended with that double.

With a 2-for-3 game, Suzuki continued his punishment of Oakland pitching. A .328 hitter in 933 career at-bats against the A’s, Ichiro’s 306 hits are the most by an opposing player against the franchise since it moved to the Bay Area from Kansas City 45 years ago.

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