The New York Yankees had the right man on the mound to avoid a sweep Thursday.
As he has done for most of his Yankees career, Andy Pettitte prevented a season-opening sweep Thursday by pitching eight stellar innings of one-run ball in the Bombers' 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. Pettitte is now 18-3 in 27 starts with the Yankees when the opposing team was going for the sweep.
"It was important, there's no doubt about it," Pettitte said of the win. "You don't want to lose your first three games here at home. You just want to get that win. It's a good win."
After the Red Sox teed off on Yankees pitching in the first two games of the series, Pettitte found a way to keep Boston's bats at bay by getting ahead. Pettitte threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 29 batters he faced, establishing the strike zone and mixing his pitches. When Boston put runners on, Pettitte used three timely double plays to escape jams. He gave up eight hits and struck out three.
Pettitte originally worried that his command would be off because he was "strong" since he was pitching on five days rest, but that didn't affect him. Boston did get some of its best at-bats in the first two innings, recording three hits over the first two frames, but Pettitte settled in and worked efficiently the rest of the way. The eight innings matched his longest outing since returning to the Yankees in 2007.
"I was able to get through early and [catcher Francisco Cervelli] did a great job," Pettitte said. "We were able to mix all our pitches and kind of keep them off balance. Defense did a great job, we got some double plays. It was a good night for us, a good win for us. You don't want get swept, your opening series at home."
HEADS UP: Cervelli provided perhaps the key play in the first inning when he tagged out Shane Victorino at the plate as the outfielder tried to score on a wild pitch from second base. Victorino got greedy as he saw Cervelli take his time retrieving the ball, and Cervelli nipped Victorino just before he touched home.
"I just take the ball and think I fell asleep a little bit," Cervelli said. "And then when I looked he was running and I started to run too."
Cervelli also tagged his first home run of the season in the seventh inning to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead. It was his first homer since Sept. 6, 2011 against Baltimore. Cervelli, who is in a platoon behind the plate, has driven in three runs in the two games he has started. He is batting .333.
GARDNER GOES YARD: Coincidentally, outfielder Brett Gardner also homered for the first time since Sept. 6, 2011 when he hit a solo shot in the third to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. The Yankees could use more homers from Gardner as they are 14-2 when he leaves the yard.
HOT START FOR NUNEZ: Eduardo Nunez went 2-for-3 and scored a run, and is now batting .400 on the year. He also had some nice plays in the field, including a nice jumping catch of a line drive.