Pettitte and the Yankees look to win their first AL East title since 2006 on Sunday when they face the Boston Red Sox for the final time in the regular season.
Before pitching for Houston from 2004-06, Pettitte went 149-78 with a 3.94 ERA with the Yankees from 1995-2003, when he was with a club that won seven division crowns and four World Series titles. He returned to New York in 2007 when Boston snapped the Yankees’ nine-year reign atop the division.
When Pettitte (13-7, 4.15 ERA) takes the mound, the 37-year-old left-hander will try to lead New York (99-56) to its 16th division title and first 100-win season since 2004 when it finished 101-61.
“We need one win basically in the next seven games,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said following Saturday’s 3-0 win. “You’d like to clinch as soon as possible so you could maybe give the guys a couple days and make sure that you keep them well-rested and strong.”
After missing his previous turn in the rotation to rest his shoulder, Pettitte suffered his first defeat in 10 starts as he yielded three runs and five hits over six innings in Monday’s 5-2 road loss to Los Angeles.
“I got us in a (2-0) hole there in the first inning and scuffled with my command,” said Pettitte, 17-9 with a 3.84 ERA in 33 starts versus Boston. “I don’t know if I was a little rusty from having the time off or what, but I felt strong.”
Robinson Cano(notes) hit a solo homer and Johnny Damon(notes) had a two-run single Saturday when New York won for the eighth time in their last nine meetings with Boston. The Yankees lost the first eight games to the Red Sox this season.
With a sizable lead over Texas in the wild-card standings, Boston (91-63) is still in good position to join the Yankees in the postseason.
Byrd looks to rebound from a 5-1 loss at Kansas City on Tuesday when he allowed five runs and nine hits over 6 2-3 innings. He did not yield a run after the opening frame.
“The first inning wasn’t very pretty, but after that he pitched great,” Francona said of Byrd, who is 3-5 with a 4.73 ERA in 11 career starts versus New York.
Cano is 5 for 15 with two homers lifetime off the veteran right-hander. Cano needs one hit to reach 200 for the first time in his career.
Boston needs a victory Sunday to win its first season series over New York since 2004.