Yanks prevail despite spotty Pettitte start

Triumphant was not the word for Andy Pettitte’s return from the disabled list Monday night, but the Yankees triumphed anyway. The lefthander did not survive the fifth inning, retired the side in order only once and squandered a three-run lead in his second consecutive unsuccessful attempt for career victory No. 250.

Pettitte pitched from the stretch a good portion of his 83-pitch outing, his 500th career start, in which he allowed four earned runs, seven hits and three walks with three strikeouts and two wild pitches in 4 2/3 innings. It was by no means classic Pettitte, who was in trouble in nearly every inning. Perhaps it was a matter of rust, but at a time when the Yankees are in search of anything to get through this rough patch Pettitte was simply not his usual self.

It showed mostly in the fifth when he coughed up the 4-1 lead given him two innings earlier by Mark Teixeira’s eighth career grand slam on a liner into the front row of the right field stands off Indians ace Justin Masterson. That was a big blow for Tex, whose name was being smeared all day by talk-radio smart alecks who dumped on him for his slow start (1-for-9, seven strikeouts) after missing seven weeks with a severe right wrist injury.

“We got more hits and walks in one inning off Masterson than we did the whole game the last time we faced him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, noting that the Cleveland righthander pitched a four-hit, no-walk shutout against them May 13 at Progressive Field.

Pettitte posted a shutdown inning in the fourth, which was good to see, but got into immediate trouble in the fifth when Drew Stubbs led off with a double to right-center. An infield hit by Michael Bourn put runners on the corners. Mike Aviles knocked in a run with a rarely-seen sacrifice fly to second base. Actually, the ball was in shallow center field where Robinson Cano made the catch with his back to the infield and could not get the throw home in time to prevent Stubbs from scoring.

Pettitte got a big second out when Asdrubal Cabrera grounded out and pulled up lame running to first base and had to come out of the game because of a right quad strain. Pettitte lost the plate as he walked Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds to load the bases. Carlos Santana supplied the fatal blow with a smoking, one-hopper past off the glove of third baseman David Adams that bounced into the stands for a two-run double that tied the score and ended Pettitte’s night.

That cost Andy any chance for a winning decision, but his teammates got him off the hook for a possible losing decision when they rallied with two out in the sixth to regain the lead, 6-4, on a two-run single by Brett Gardner. Masterson made a questionable decision to cut off Bourn’s peg home from center between the mound and the plate because the second runner, Austin Romine, a catcher, was quite a ways up the line when the pitcher gloved the ball, a break for the Yankees.

Travis Hafner put the finishing touches on the Yankees’ 7-4 victory with a home run off his old teammates in the seventh. Shawn Kelley (3-0), Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera (20th save) picked up Pettitte with 4 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit relief.

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