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Saturday, April 20, 2013
Pettitte pulling his weight

By Wallace Matthews

Andy Pettitte
Andy Pettitte made Joe Girardi's dreams come true by tossing 7 1/3 innings in Toronto.
TORONTO -- Before tonight's game, Joe Girardi said he "would love to get seven innings" out of Andy Pettitte.

The old man gave him 7⅓. What's the next step beyond love?

Whatever it is, that is what Girardi must have felt for his 40-year-old left-hander tonight. Not only did Pettitte work into the eighth inning, stifling the Blue Jays on six hits, two of them infield dribblers, and three runs, but he allowed the manager to rest his entire bullpen except for Shawn Kelley, who threw the last inning and two-thirds.

"Andy's remarkable," said Vernon Wells, who had a good look at Pettitte's back from left field. "I've had the chance to watch him for a long time and he's the same guy he was 10 or 12 years ago."

Not exactly. That Pettitte hit the low-to-mid-90s regularly with his fastball; this one relies on precise location with his cutter and a fastball that tops out at around 88. But he knows how to get ahead in the count, and he knows how to pitch economically -- he needed just 90 pitches to get 22 outs -- and most remarkably, he still knows how to get major league hitters out after 17 seasons and nearly 3,200 major league innings.

Most remarkably, his win last night came 10 days after his last start, having missed a turn when his back locked up on him before his last scheduled start.

"I felt like I hadn’t pitched all year to tell you the truth," he said. "It took me a few innings to settle in. I was overthrowing a little bit early."

Pettitte allowed a triple to the first hitter he faced, Rajai Davis, and then gave up pretty much nothing until Jose Bautista hit a two-run homer over the fence in center in the sixth. At one point, Pettitte struck out four straight batters, and when Girardi came to collect him with one out in the eighth, Pettitte felt as if he still had some gas left in the tank.

"I didn’t think that he was going to come out there and get me," Pettitte said. "I didn’t know how many pitches I had, but I felt like after the first inning I was pretty efficient with them. But we had a nice cushion, and he said, 'That’s good.' I said, 'All right, whatever.'"

Of the team's first nine wins, Pettitte (3-0, 2.01) and CC Sabathia (3-1, 3.57) have accounted for six of them. "These are two guys we’re counting on heavily," Girardi said. "We want to get everyone involved, but these are two guys we really need to pitch well."

So far, he's been so good.

QUESTION: How many starts do you think Pettitte will make this year, over or under 25? And what's his final record?