Turns out, his teammates are having a hard time locking up the trip.
Pettitte was chased in the fourth inning Friday night, ineffective in his second start since being activated from the disabled list, and the Boston Red Sox held off New York 10-8 to knock the Yankees out of first place in the AL East.
"It's not what you want to see," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "But I believe in Andy and I believe he'll bounce back in his next start."
Jed Lowrie hit a three-run homer off Pettitte and went 4 for 4, setting a career high for hits. Bill Hall added a three-run shot against Jonathan Albaladejo, handing Josh Beckett a 10-1 cushion in the fifth.
Alex Rodriguez rallied the Yankees with a pair of home runs, giving him 610 to pass Sammy Sosa for sixth place on the career list. Mark Teixeira also connected twice as New York went deep a season-high six times, yet fell a half-game behind Tampa Bay with its third straight defeat. The Rays beat Seattle 5-3.
The Yankees had a 2 1/2-game edge in the division after beating Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. Since then, they've allowed 27 runs in three days to the Rays and Red Sox.
"The frustrating part is being knocked out when we needed a good outing," Pettitte said, adding that he feels fine physically. "I really couldn't get any kind of rhythm."
"Early on, he was really good," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "I kind of thought he pitched to the scoreboard most of the night, but that last one, it's like, OK, it's time to make a change."
Rodriguez's second homer, off reliever Scott Atchison, cut it to 10-7 in the seventh and got the sellout crowd of 49,457 buzzing. But the Red Sox bullpen closed it out, with Josh Bard tossing a scoreless eighth and Papelbon earning his 37th save in 44 attempts.
Marco Scutaro ended Pettitte's night with a two-run single that capped a four-run fourth, sending Boston to its fifth consecutive victory on the road. The Red Sox are 6 1/2 games behind New York in the wild-card race with nine to play.
The Yankees came into the series opener knowing they could clinch their 15th playoff berth in 16 years by beating their biggest rivals twice in the three-game set. But the injury-riddled Red Sox, with five games left against New York, could still make some noise -- and give the Yankees a huge scare -- if they go on a late tear.
"It's not really a spoiler role. It's an incentive for us to reach the playoffs," Hall said. "If we can knock them off, it might give us a chance."
In his second outing since missing two months with a strained left groin, Pettitte (11-3) fell behind several hitters and had trouble putting others away. He gave up seven runs -- six earned -- and a season-high 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings.
"We're just not used to seeing it. He's had such a great season," Teixeira said. "He's battling back. This is only his second start back. So, we know Andy's going out there giving it his best. It just wasn't his night."
Pettitte lasted only 75 pitches, not what the defending World Series champions had in mind as they try to get him stretched out for October. The left-hander came off the DL on Sunday in Baltimore and delivered an encouraging performance, yielding one run and three hits in six innings.
Beckett (6-5) went 6 2/3 innings, giving up five runs and seven hits.
"I'd rather pitch like that and win than pitch great and lose," he said. "I started leaving balls up. The sixth inning didn't bother me as much as the seventh -- the walk in front of the home run."
Lowell was hit by Granderson's bad-hop single to first in the fifth. He crumpled to the ground as Francona and a trainer rushed out of the dugout, but the 2007 World Series MVP received a warm ovation as he rose to his feet and remained in the game -- temporarily. He was replaced by Lars Anderson in the sixth. "It's sore. It hit him kind of on the temple, but he didn't exhibit any signs of concussion or anything like that," Francona said. "We'll keep an eye on him, but I think he's going to be all right." ... Boston backup C Jarrod Saltalamacchia will travel to Cleveland to have his sore thumb examined by a hand specialist, Dr. Thomas Graham. ... The four home runs served up by Beckett were a season high. ... Derek Jeter extended his season-best hitting streak to 13 games.