OAKLAND, Calif. -- Andy Pettitte will celebrate his 41st birthday on Saturday, but before he accepts a single present, the Yankees are going to need one from him.
They are going to need Pettitte, in his last day as a 40-year-old, to give them a solid eight innings of work tonight, and if possible, more.
After running through six relief pitchers in Thursday night's 3-2, 18-inning loss to the Oakland Athletics, Pettitte is not going to have a lot of backup when he takes the mound tonight for the series opener against the Los Angeles Angels.
Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Boone Logan, Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne all worked in the game. Adam Warren, who threw the equivalent of an excellent start, is probably headed back to Scranton to make room for a fresh arm. Joba Chamberlain, who had worked the previous two nights and got lit up on Wednesday, warmed up but never got into the game.
Certainly, Robertson, who threw 22 pitches, and Kelley, who only faced one batter, and Rivera, who only threw 10 pitches, broke two bats, and allowed the inherited runner to score in the 18th inning, will likely be available tonight.
But the onus will be on Pettitte, who is only on his third start after a DL stint for a strained trapezius.
The last time out, he worked into the eighth inning and held the punchless Seattle Mariners to one run to pick up his fifth win of the season. The way the Yankees are hitting these days, he might need to throw a shutout tonight just to get a tie.
But if there is anyone the Yankees can rely on to do that, it is Pettitte. At an age when most pitchers are winding down, he still seems to be gearing up.
He will have a well-deserved celebration Saturday night. But first, the Yankees need a solid night of work out of him on Friday.
UP NOW: My column on the Night of the Broken Bats, the 18-inning, 3-2 loss to the Athletics in which the heart of the Yankees lineup went 0-for-28 with 12 strikeouts. Also the Rapid Reaction, if such a thing is possible, on a very long game.
ON DECK: Game 1 of the Yankees-Angels series, Pettitte (5-3, 3.82) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (4-5, 4.05), first pitch at 10:05 p.m. The clubhouse opens at 6:35 p.m. and I'll be there with the lineups and pregame notes shortly afterward, so check in around dinner time. And as always, thanks for reading.