Andy Pettitte pitched five sparkling innings in his return from a broken leg and his bullpen barely held on, keeping the New York Yankees atop the AL East with a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in the opener of Wednesday’s day-night doubleheader.
Pettitte (4-3) looked his old steely self in giving up four hits in his first September start since 2010. The 40-year-old left-hander, injured on June 27, boosted the Yankees into a half-game division lead over the pesky Baltimore Orioles.
Robinson Cano had an RBI double in a three-run first against Henderson Alvarez (9-13) that also included Alex Rodriguez’s run-scoring groundout and Curtis Granderson’s sacrifice fly.
Rafael Soriano escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth after Toronto closed to 3-2, and New York extended a winning streak to three for the first time since Aug. 13-15.
In the makeup of a game washed out Tuesday night, Ichiro Suzuki had three hits batting leadoff as Derek Jeter was given the opener off. Jeter was expected to play shortstop in the nightcap for the first time in a week because of a sore left ankle.
Pettitte threw 75 pitches in his first start since a line drive off the bat of Cleveland’s Casey Kotchman broke his left fibula. Joe Girardi mixed and matched liberally, using six relievers
Clay Rapada, Derek Lowe, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan held Toronto scoreless through seven innings. Then David Robertson gave up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson and a run-scoring double to Omar Vziquel in the eighth.
Soriano relieved with two outs and runners on second and third, then walked Anthony Gose after a foul drive about a foot foul down the left-field line that just missed being a two-run double. Rajai Davis followed with a sinking liner to left field that Suzuki caught against his stomach for the third out, getting a big cheer from the sparse makeup game crowd.
Nick Swisher had an RBI single in the bottom half. Soriano pitched a perfect ninth for his 41st save in 44 chances.
Toronto’s 45-year-old Omar Vizquel had two hits to move past Babe Ruth for 41st on the career list at 2,874.
The Blue Jays, playing their first doubleheader against the Yankees since 1986, were without Yunel Escobar, who began a three-game suspension for wearing eye black displaying anti-gay slur written in Spanish during a game last weekend against Boston.
The few fans who made it for the start gave Pettitte as loud a cheer when he was introduced.
Pettitte struggled a bit with his command, walking two, but kept the Blue Jays from hitting the ball hard with a biting breaking ball. He put runners on in each of his first four innings and had runner on third in the second through fourth innings. But he got timely groundouts in the second, third – a double play – and fourth to avoid trouble.
NOTES: Robinson has a 7.00 ERA in September. … Alvarez allowed five hits in seven innings and struck out a career-high seven. … Toronto DH Edwin Encarnacion (sore right big toe) was not in the starting lineup for the opener. … The Blue Jays will play another doubleheader Monday, making up an Aug. 26 postponement at Baltimore. They will play nine games in seven days. … To make room for Pettitte on the 40-man roster, the Yankees recalled RHP Dellin Betances from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and placed him on the 60-day DL.