You could tell that it was a special day at Yankee Stadium when the Bleacher Creatures broke from tradition and started a chant for Andy Pettitte which got most of the 41,000-plus to chime in. I don’t recall the Creatures ever chanting the starting pitcher’s name when they do the first inning lineup call out.
So how did Andy do? Was he the Pettitte of old? I’m afraid it was closer to old Pettitte. He wasn’t terrible — 6 1/3 innings, 7 hits, and 4 runs. But at a time of diminished bullpen strength for the Yankees, he’s going to have to do a whole lot better to make a difference. Particularly telling was the fact that he walked three batters and only struck out two. More telling, perhaps, was that the two home runs he gave up both came with men on base. God knows Pettitte made a lot of starts in which he gave up two home runs, but most with bases empty. This time when he got behind in the count even relatively weak hitters were waiting on the fast ball.
And here’s the worst news of all: the Seattle Mariners who hit the home runs off him, Casper Wells and Justin Smoak, were batting .207 and .195, respectively.
I suppose I should feel elated at seeing Pettitte back again, and deep down I am. But there’s something very troubling about the Yankees’ need to plug holes by continually bringing back old timers. Does anyone really believe that Pettiite can fill a key gap in the rotation? I suppose that’s better than trying to bring back Roger Clemens again.
A bigger problem than the rotation right now, though, is the black hole in the middle of the batting order. I’m talking about Mark Teixeira — not Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez as many are saying, lumping the two of them together to pin the blame for what’s wrong with the Yankees’ hitting. It’s true both are suffering from power outages — Tex has four home runs and 17 RBIs, A-Rod 5 and just 14. But that’s where the comparison ends, Teixeira’s batting numbers are horrible — .222 BA, .275 OBP, and .373 Slg. This is what you’d expect from Eduardo Nunez. (Maybe I should take that back, as Nunez has the same Slg. as Teixiera but is outhitting him by 72 points and his OBP of .356 is 61 points higher.) Rodriguez isn’t killing the ball, but his .287 BA and .387 OBP at least indicate that he’s seeing the ball and hitting it and the power will be there soon.
The Yankees’ hitting weakness was highlighted in the eighth inning when with two out, A-Rod drew a walk and then Cano walked on four pitches in one of those “unintentional intentional” walks which clearly indicated Seattle’s preference to take their chances with Teixeira, who promptly struck out on four pitches.
How bad is it for Teixeira? He’s hitting .222 from the left side and .221 from the right, so until he comes up with another side to hit from he’s looking pretty bad. I agree with those who say that the shift — or rather the shifts, as opposing teams do a partial moving over when he bats from the right though not as extreme as when he’s lefty — is taking maybe 30 or 40 points off his batting average. But that doesn’t account for his absolute failure to even make contact with the ball in so many tight situations. This isn’t Mark Teixeira’s usually slow start; it’s no start at all.