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Monday, April 29, 2013
Pettitte: Loss 'made me sick to my stomach'

By Wallace Matthews

Andy Pettitte
Andy Pettitte's cutter had no bite to it on Monday night -- and the lowly Astros feasted on it.
Andy Pettitte did not get the license numbers of the trucks that hit him Monday night at Yankee Stadium. He did not know the names of the players who did the most damage against him, because most of them were in high school when Pettitte put his three years in as a member of the Houston Astros back in 2004-06.

All he knew was this: When he needed his best friend in the world to come to his aid Monday, that normally reliable ally was nowhere to be found.

We are talking, of course, about his out-pitch, his swing-and-miss pitch, the pitch that has allowed him to continue to be successful when most of the other starting pitchers of his heyday have taken up golf clubs and fishing rod. We are talking about Andy Pettitte's cutter.

"I can’t remember when I had completely lost the feel for it for as many innings as I did tonight," Pettittesaid after getting rocked for seven runs in 4-1/3 innings, the most runs he has allowed in a start since 2008 and his shortest non-injury abbreviated start since 2010.

"I just lost it," he said. "I'm not gonna try and think too much about it. In some games, a pitch has abandoned me here and there, but it just didn’t have any bite at all tonight."

What made it worse was that Pettitte couldn't even name the hitters who were jumping all over him in the Yankees' 9-1 loss to the team with the worst record in the American League.

"I threw a pretty good cutter to the No. 2 hitter, and then after that it just kind of abandoned me," Pettitte said. The Astros' No. 2 hitter is named Brandon Barnes, and he enjoyed a career night, with three hits (two doubles) and three RBIs.

"Later, I had a kid 0-2 and I was trying to keep it at [3-0] and tried to go back to the cutter," he said. It was the same "kid," Barnes, and the same result, a two-run double that made it 5-0.

Some of the other "no-names" who feasted on Pettitte on Monday were Carlos Corporan, who also had a career night -- 4-for-4, a home run (off Adam Warren) and four RBIs. Then, there was a guy Pettitte has obviously heard of, Carlos Pena -- he came in .366 lifetime against Pettitte with six HRs in 43 at-bats -- who did some damage, with an RBI single in the first and a triple off the center-field fence in the third.

It all added up to a game that Pettitte said, "made me sick to my stomach."

After three outstanding starts to begin the season, in which he went 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA, Pettitte has struggled in his past two outings, giving up all three runs in a 3-0 loss to the Rays on Wednesday, and getting pounded Monday.

"I've seen Andy since 1996, but I don’t know if I've ever seen him not have his [cutter]," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That’s been his signature pitch for a long time. It just didn’t have the bite today that we’re used to seeing. It’s kinda strange."

There were indications that Pettitte and rookie catcher Austin Romine, making his first start since being called up from Triple-A Scranton to replace the injured Francisco Cervelli, were having trouble communicating; Pettitte shook Romine off several times in the first inning and the two had a couple of on-mound conversations in the second.

"I got to get here tomorrow and we got to talk about what happened," Romine said. "I got to get in his head. I gotta figure out what he wants to do. We got to iron this out before next time."

But Pettitte downplayed any communication problem with his young catcher in favor of placing the blame where he thought it belonged -- on the cutter.

"I had been burying a lot of cutters in front of home plate, trying to get guys to swing at it," he said. "And I'm burying 'em because I’m not trusting it. It’s not a good feeling, and I probably forced that a little too much. I should have stayed away from that pitch and gone to something else. But that was just me being stubborn out there."

Stubborn and loyal to the pitch that got him this far, but for one night at least, couldn't even get him out of the fifth inning.

"He had a tough start. It happens," Girardi said. "When you see guys like Derek [Jeter] and Mo [Rivera] and Andy not have success, that’s when it surprises you. But it happens to the great ones."

QUESTION: Do you agree with Girardi that this was a single bad start for Pettitte? Or are you starting to get concerned that age and innings are catching up to him?