Yankees lose in Pettitte's return

Andy Pettitte looks in for the sign as

Andy Pettitte looks in for the sign as the Yankees vs. Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium. (May 13, 2012) (Credit: David Pokress)

It seemed a stretch that the gaudy expectations for Andy Pettitte would be met.

"I expect Andy to be Andy," Joe Girardi said numerous times this past week in advance of the lefthander's return to the rotation.

Meaning Pettitte would pick up where he left off in 2010 when, while healthy, he was among the AL's best pitchers.

The 39-year-old showed glimpses of that pitcher Sunday at the Stadium, but there also were reminders in the 6-2 loss to the Mariners that this comeback won't be easy.

Pettitte, given equally raucous standing ovations from the Stadium crowd of 41,631 when he took the mound before the first and when he left it with one out in the seventh, allowed four runs and seven hits, including two-run homers by Justin Smoak and Casper Wells.

"It felt great, it felt like I never left," Pettitte said. "I got a little careless with a few pitches and it cost me."

The loss cost the Yankees (19-15), whose offense was shut down by Kevin Millwood and five relievers, a three-game sweep.

Making his first start since Game 3 of the 2010 ALCS, Pettitte walked three, struck out two and threw 94 pitches, 60 for strikes.

"It was awesome to watch him compete after admiring and respecting him from the other side for so long," said Raul IbaƱez, 39, a member of the Phillies when the Yankees and Pettitte vanquished his team in the 2009 World Series.

Although he had erratic command, Pettitte's arm strength held steady as his fastball hit 90 mph in the first inning and again in the seventh.

"He wasn't locating as well as he wanted to," said Russell Martin, who previously had caught Pettitte for only one spring training inning and a few bullpen sessions.

He added, "I liked what I saw" and that "you couldn't really tell" Pettitte hadn't pitched since October 2010.

Pettitte looked like the Pettitte of 2010 during much of the first five innings, with only Smoak's two-run homer to leftfield the major mistake.

"A horrible pitch," Pettitte said of the cutter Smoak hit out.

Otherwise, it was classic Pettitte in those five frames, meaning ground-ball outs and quick innings. He entered the sixth having thrown 63 pitches and left it at 89, allowing five hits in the inning, including Wells' two-run homer off the screen attached to the rightfield foul pole.

"I got a little tired there going out there for the seventh," Pettitte said. "I had to work hard in the sixth to get out of that. But everything's feeling good. Just hoping I'll continue to stay healthy and be able to progress like I want to to get where I want to be."

Pettitte still was kicking himself about the homer by Wells that made it 4-1 because the Yankees had pulled to within 2-1 during the previous half-inning against the day's forgotten veteran, 37-year-old righthander Kevin Millwood.

Millwood came in 0-4 with a 5.88 ERA but held the Yankees to one run and three hits in seven innings.

The Yankees, who went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, stranded six and hit into three double plays, pushed only one run across against the five relievers who worked the final three innings.

Pettitte took the mound to a loud standing ovation at 1:07 p.m., and his first pitch three minutes later was an 89-mph fastball that leadoff man Dustin Ackley fouled back. Ackley momentarily sucked the air out of the stadium when he jumped on a 1-and-1 pitch and sent it to Nick Swisher at the wall in rightfield.

With the next batter, Wells, at the plate, the traditional Roll Call continued, ending with the unusual call for the day's starting pitcher: "Andy Pettitte! Andy Pettitte!"

Pettitte did not step off the mound to acknowledge that, but he did respond -- with a fist in the air -- to the noise as he walked off in the seventh.

"It was great," Pettitte said of the fans. "I appreciate them so much."

He used the word "disappointed" several times about taking the loss -- in character, holding himself responsible even though the offense provided little backing -- but also looked long-term.

"There is not a question in my mind about how this is all going to play out for me, and it's not about this one start," Pettitte said. "I'll measure if this was a successful return or not at the end of October when I'm hoping we're where we want to be."

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