Andy Pettitte threw five shutout innings in his first start in 85 days as the New York Yankees held off a late charge to beat the Toronto Blue Jays and regain sole possession of first place in the American League East.
Pettitte, 40, allowed four hits and three walks on 75 pitches in the 4-2 victory, the first game of a double-header today at Yankee stadium. Ichiro Suzuki, batting leadoff, was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and made a tumbling catch in left field for the final out in the eighth inning after the Blue Jays had closed to 3-2.
The Yankees (84-63) are a half-game ahead of the Baltimore Orioles (84-64) for the AL East lead, with both Major League Baseball teams playing tonight. New York has played one less game and has no off days remaining in the season.
Trailing 3-0 in the top of the eighth, the Blue Jays scored twice and loaded the bases before New York closer Rafael Soriano induced a line drive to left field. Suzuki ran in and caught the ball, cradling it against his chest as he rolled to the ground to end the inning.
Pettitte hadn’t pitched since June 27, when a line drive broke his left ankle. He was given a 3-0 lead in the first inning, and struck out three before leaving when he reached his pitch limit.
Both Blue Jays runs were charged to David Robertson, who allowed four hits in two-thirds of an inning. Soriano recorded the final four outs for his 41st save of the season.
The Yankees, who held a 10-game divisional lead on July 18, haven’t ended a day out of first place since June 10. The Orioles took a half-game lead in the division on Sept. 13 following a day-game victory, but New York pulled even that night.
David Phelps is scheduled to take the mound tonight for the Yankees against Toronto’s Ricky Romero. The Orioles are on the road against the Seattle Mariners (70-79).
Baltimore holds the American League’s second wild card spot, a half-game behind the Oakland Athletics and three games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels. The Orioles haven’t had a winning record since 1997, the last time they made the playoffs.