YANKEES 5, MARLINS 1
Just when it looked as if the New York Yankees would never beat a young pitcher with which they were unfamiliar, Andy Pettitte decided to call a halt to the whole thing.
He did just that and actually tossed in an RBI double to aid the offense as the Yankees frustrated the Florida Marlins 5-1 on Friday night.
Pettitte (7-3), returning for the first time to the same mound he lost to Josh Beckett in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series, logged seven innings and gave up just three hits and one run. He struck out seven and walked none in clearly his best outing of the season.
It was just what the Yankees needed after having lost six of their past 10 games, including losing a home series to the lowly Washington Nationals.
Derek Jeter, back in the starting lineup after missing two starts with a sore ankle, served notice to Marlins starter Sean West (2-2) that the Yankees were not going to lay dormant on this night. He ripped the 24-year-old lefty’s first offering for a double. He scored two batters later on Jorge Posada’s single.
In the second frame the Yankees kept up their assault on West, who was making only his sixth major-league start. Robinson Cano singled to left and, after one out, Angel Berroa and Pettitte followed with RBI doubles to make it 3-0.
Jeter singled up the middle and Johnny Damon capped the scoring in the inning with a single to right to plate Pettitte.
Melky Cabrera actually completed the Yankees scoring in the third inning by raking a 3-1 fastball deep into the leftfield stands to make it 5-0
Pettitte took care of the rest.
He made his only real mistake in the third inning when he grooved a fastball to Cody Ross after he fell behind in the count 2-0. Ross smacked the offering into the leftfield seats to give the Marlins just a glimmer of hope.
But Pettitte only allowed one hit (a Hanley Ramirez double in the sixth) the rest of the way in notching career victory No. 222. He also leads all Yankee starters in victories this season. Pettitte credited the victory on a biting curveball that had the young Marlins hitters swinging at air most of the night.
The Yankees offense, meanwhile, actually awoke in the tropical heat of Miami after slumbering throughout the series with the Nationals. They managed only three earned runs in 20 2/3 innings off Nationals youngsters Sharion Martis, John Lannan and Craig Stammen in New York.
They battered West for five runs and nine hits in just three innings Friday night. West ended up being lifted in the fifth inning after having surrendered a walk to Posada and a double to Nick Swisher. He finished the night giving up 10 hits and two walks in four-plus innings. His only bright spot was that he set a career high in strikeouts with seven.
The Yankees managed their onslaught on the Fish without their DH Hideki Matsui, who will not start in the series because he still is unable to play the field on his creaky knees. Manager Joe Girardi also had to scratch third baseman Alex Rodriguez after he complained of fatigue.
A-Rod had actually played every game the Yankees have played since his return May 8 from hip surgery, all but one of those games in the field. The most telling fact that something was wrong with the Yankees cleanup hitter was that he had only three hits in his last 34 at-bats, which also spans the same period the Yankees have taken a slide.
Girardi said A-Rod is available to pinch-hit but will not start until Sunday’s game in order to let him rest. Girardi also told A-Rod not to work out in the weight room or batting cage. So the Yankees hope to get a rejuvenated slugger back on Sunday.
Despite the Yankees recent sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox and their inexplicable power outage against the Nationals, the Yankees actually gained a game on the Bosox in the AL East standings. The Red Sox were trounced by the Atlanta Braves 8-2 on Friday and their lead in the division fell to just two games.
Though the Yankees might want to rest on their laurels, Saturday night presents yet another pitcher the Yankees have not faced and he is good one.
The Marlins will send to the mound 25-year-old Josh Johnson (6-1, 2.76 ERA). The Yankees will counter with former Marlin A.J. Burnett (5-3, 4.46 ERA), who is coming off his best start of the season. Burnett went seven scoreless innings as the Yankees thrashed Johan Santana and the New York Mets 15-0.
Burnett, who pitched for the Marlins from 1999 to 2005, said he is excited to return to the mound where he started his major-league career. Burnett told SunSports that he had many good memories with the Marlins and he hopes to do well in his return.
If it is as good as Pettitte’s return effort on Friday at Land Shark Stadium, that would be just fine with the Yankees.
The first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. EDT.