Teammates rally around Pettitte

A figurine of Andy Pettitte was distributed among the Yankee Stadium crowd of 42,678 Saturday. On the mound, the real thing tried not to be a miniature resemblance of himself, which is a daily challenge at age 41 for any major league player. While the Yankees made a giveaway of Pettitte, he was careful not to do the same with the Orioles.

The popular lefthander produced a gritty if unspectacular outing. At his age, there is more grit than spectacle anyway. Victimized early by Triple Crown threat Chris Davis, who clubbed his 33rd home run in the first inning, and his own throwing error that led to a run in the second, Pettitte had to fight to keep his club within arm’s length of the Orioles. That he did, and his teammates rewarded him by charging back to take the lead in the sixth inning and put Pettitte in position for his first winning decision in five starts since June 8.

As has often been the case, a Pettitte victory was saved by Mariano Rivera, who worked a scoreless ninth for his 29th save of the season and career No. 637, 72 of which have come in W’s by Pettitte, the top starter-reliever combination since the save statistic became official in 1969.

“First of all, it was a great win for the team,” Pettitte said. “I’m thankful the guys could come back and get me the lead. I feel pretty good early, but I have been giving up a lot of runs early. I need to throw some zeroes up there.”

Davis’ home run looked like a long fly ball that would eventually die on the warning track, but it lofted in the humid air into the netting in front of Monument Park. Pettitte’s errant throw to first base the next inning was an error of aggression but an error nevertheless and preceded an RBI double by Alex Casilla.

“Andy dialed it in after the third inning,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He seemed to figure it out after that.”

Pettitte gave up leadoff doubles in the third and fourth innings. He avoided damage in the third but was cuffed for a run in the fourth on a two-out, RBI single by Taylor Teegarden. The Yanks fought back against righthander Chris Tillman and pulled ahead in the sixth to end his personal seven-game winning streak.

Once given the lead, Pettitte was determined not to give it up. The Orioles got a runner to second base with one out in the seventh, but Pettitte struck out dangerous Nick Markakis with an inside fastball on his 100th and last pitch of the game. Shawn Kelley came out of the pen to strike out Manny Machado as well. David Robertson and Rivera handled the rest. Yankees pitchers did not walk a batter for the 12th game this season, the most in the majors.

Remember how downtrodden the Yankees seemed at this time a week ago when they were swept by the Orioles at Camden Yards? Well, the Yankees haven’t lost since. Their winning streak has reached a season-best six games. Not only that; the Yanks moved ahead of the Orioles back into second place in the American League East.

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