Six weeks ago, Andy Pettitte looked like a weak link in the New York Yankees’ formidable rotation. It hasn’t taken the veteran left-hander long to re-establish himself as one of the majors’ most reliable pitchers.
Pettitte will bid for his eighth straight win when the AL East-leading Yankees open a three-game series with the defending World Series champion Anaheim Angels at Edison Field.
Pettitte was 5-6 with a 5.33 ERA after being pounded for six runs and six hits over just 1 2-3 innings of an 8-7 loss to the Chicago Cubs on June 8, but he hasn’t lost since. He has gone 7-0 in his last eight outings and shares the team lead in victories with David Wells at 12.
On Wednesday, Pettitte yielded two runs and five hits over seven strong innings to beat Baltimore 4-2. The victory made Pettitte the first pitcher to win at least 12 games in each of his first nine seasons since Hall of Famer Stan Coveleski did it for Cleveland from 1916-26.
“I’ve been able to stay healthy enough to go out there and make enough starts to win 12 every season,” Pettitte said. “It’s something I’m very proud of. It’s being part of a good team here.”
The Yankees dropped two of three in Boston over the weekend, shaving their lead in the East to just 1 1/2 games over the second-place Red Sox.
New York, which was ousted from last year’s AL division series by the Angels, ending a run of four straight World Series appearances, is opening a six-game trip which concludes with three games in Oakland over the weekend.
The Angels averted a four-game sweep with Monday’s 2-1 victory over the Athletics.
STANDINGS: Yankees - 1st place, AL East. Angels - 3rd place, 10 1/2 GB, AL West.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Pettitte (12-6, 4.55 ERA). Pettitte is 10-6 with a 3.89 ERA in 19 career starts against the Angels. He is 4-4 with a 4.08 mark in 10 starts at Edison Field.
ANGELS PROBABLE STARTER: Kevin Appier (7-6, 5.28 ERA). Appier ended a three-start winless streak and bounced back from his worst outing of the season in Thursday’s 10-6 win at Texas. The veteran right-hander yielded two runs and four hits over six solid innings after being pounded for seven runs in just 1 1-3 innings of an 8-4 loss at Baltimore on July 19. Appier is 8-8 with a 4.03 ERA in 23 career starts against the Yankees.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Yankees - Hideki Matsui, .295 avg.; Jason Giambi, 29 HRs and 80 RBIs; Alfonso Soriano, 78 runs and 27 SBs. Angels - Anderson, .315 avg., 23 HRs and 86 RBIs; Tim Salmon, 57 runs; Adam Kennedy, 13 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 3-3.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - SS Derek Jeter is batting .411 (23-for-56) over his last 15 games. … 1B Giambi has hit 21 of his team-leading 29 homers on the road this season. … C Jorge Posada is hitting .333 (6-for-18) with two homers and five RBIs in his career against RHP Appier. Angels - Appier is 3-1 with a 4.79 ERA in eight home starts this year. … OF Darin Erstad ended an 0-for-14 slump with a key single during Monday’s eighth-inning rally. … RHP Troy Percival has converted all but one of his 24 save opportunities.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 33-19 on the road; Angels - 30-23 at home.
INJURIES: Yankees - RHP Jose Contreras (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL. Angels - 1B-DH Brad Fullmer (knee), 15-day DL; 3B Troy Glaus (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Matt Wise (elbow), 60-day DL.