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Andy Pettitte wins opener as Yankees sweep

Andy Pettitte gave up four hits and no

Andy Pettitte gave up four hits and no runs while striking out three in five innings for the Yankees against the Blue Jays in his first start since June. (Sept. 19, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Andy Pettitte expected better, which wasn't surprising.

The 40-year-old lefthander has always been his own harshest critic. But he still was more encouraged than not with the results, and the Yankees were ecstatic.

Pettitte, in his first appearance since suffering a fractured left ankle June 27, gave his pitching-starved team five shutout innings in an important 4-2 victory over the Blue Jays Wednesday in front of a friends-and-neighbors crowd of maybe 10,000 at the Stadium.

"He gave us everything we asked for,'' Joe Girardi said. "He looked like Andy before he got hurt.''

Ichiro Suzuki, meanwhile, looked like the pre-2011 Ichiro. The 38-year-old outfielder went 7-for-8 in the doubleheader. His fourth hit of the nightcap -- watched by a crowd of 39,997 that included managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner -- gave the Yankees a 2-1 victory for the sweep. The Yankees (85-63) have a half-game lead over the Orioles, who beat the Mariners, 3-1, in 11 innings.

Ichiro's two-out single off lefty Aaron Loup in the eighth drove in Curtis Granderson to snap a 1-1 tie.

The second game, the Yankees' ninth win in their last 13, was also noteworthy for Derek Jeter's return to shortstop after missing a week in the field with a bone bruise in his left ankle. A first-inning single gave him an MLB-best 200 hits, the eighth time he's hit that plateau, tying Lou Gehrig's club record.

David Phelps stood out in the second game, too, allowing a run and three hits in 62/3 innings.

"Doubleheaders are tough,'' Jeter said. "It's tough to beat a team twice in one day. Our pitching deserves credit. If you pitch like this, you're going to have a chance to win.''

Rafael Soriano recorded two saves on the day (the first time he's done so in his career) to give him 42.

Pettitte, pitching the first game of the day-night doubleheader, wasn't especially crisp, but he displayed reasons for the Yankees to be optimistic about him being a factor down the stretch.

Ever the perfectionist, Pettitte (4-3) wanted more.

"Didn't feel like my command was as sharp as I would have liked it to have been,'' said Pettitte, who allowed four hits and two walks and struck out three. "But obviously it's a good win. It's good to get back out there and compete with these guys.''

His teammates were more than happy to see him.

"We know he's a competitive guy and doesn't want to be sitting down here in the clubhouse,'' said Robinson Cano, whose double in the first inning of the opener against Henderson Alvarez produced a 1-0 lead.

Nick Swisher called Pettitte a "living legend'' before discussing the lefthander's potential impact. "To have him back is crucial,'' Swisher said. "It really solidifies the rotation.''

Of course, there's a little ways to go before that declaration can be made.

An opposing team's talent evaluator said Toronto's anemic lineup didn't provide the best of tests from which to draw a conclusion, one way or the other.

"Stuff was average, it was OK,'' the evaluator said. "Wasn't very sharp, but you expect that .''

Said another talent evaluator: "Threw some good cutters and changeups. Other stuff was a little sloppy. You couldn't pick a better lineup to come back against.''

David Robertson nearly provided a much different headline to the day game, allowing two runs and four hits in the eighth as the Blue Jays pulled to 3-2.

Soriano, aided by a terrific Ichiro catch that saved two runs, got out of the eighth and, with a 4-2 lead provided by Swisher's two-out RBI single, pitched a scoreless ninth.

On a pitch count of 75, Pettitte threw exactly that many, taking the mound in the fifth at 68 and setting down the side in order on seven pitches. Girardi said Pettitte's pitch count will be 85-90 Monday in Minneapolis.

Pettitte was most pleased with his arm strength. His fastball topped out at 90 mph and sat in the 88-89 range all five innings.

"There's a lot of experience there,'' Girardi said of what a healthy and effective Pettitte means to the rotation. "He knows how to get it done.''

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