The staff is about to receive a significant boost for the stretch run.
Andy Pettitte(notes), who was looking like a Cy Young-caliber pitcher before getting injured, is expected to make his first start for the Yankees in two months in Sunday’s series finale against the Baltimore Orioles.
New York (90-58) remained one-half game ahead of Tampa Bay in the AL East with Saturday’s 11-3 win. The Yankees, who are 13-4 against Baltimore, and Rays will open a critical four-game series Monday in the Bronx.
One of the biggest reasons New York has baseball’s best record is because it leads the majors with 789 runs. Robinson Cano(notes) hit a two-run homer Saturday and now has 101 RBIs. The Yankees now have three infielders with at least 100 RBIs in a single season for the first time in franchise history as Mark Teixeira(notes) and Alex Rodriguez(notes) previously reached the mark.
The starting pitching, however, has had some issues lately. Phil Hughes(notes) is 1-3 with a 7.17 ERA in his last four starts, A.J. Burnett(notes) is 1-3 with a 6.82 ERA in his last six, and Javier Vazquez(notes) is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA in his last seven.
Sabathia has carried the rotation and picked up his major league-leading 20th victory Saturday to bolster his Cy Young resume.
Pettitte (11-2, 2.88 ERA), who was tied for second in the AL in wins and had the league’s fourth-best ERA at the time of his injury, looks to help stabilize the rotation against one of his favorite opponents.
The left-hander has been sidelined since July 18 by a strained left groin that was originally expected to keep him out between five and six weeks.
“I’m just excited to be back, to get back out there, to be back with the guys, competing with the guys and basically doing my job,” Pettitte told the Yankees’ official website. “I feel like I’m good to go - 100 percent.”
Manager Joe Girardi said Pettitte, who allowed two runs in five innings in a rehab start for Double-A Trenton on Tuesday, can throw up to 90 pitches if he’s feeling well. Facing Baltimore (58-90) should make him feel real good.
Pettitte allowed one run in five innings in winning his lone start of the season against the Orioles on May 5, and is 7-0 with a 3.02 ERA in nine outings against them since losing July 27, 2007. The 16-year veteran is 27-6 all-time versus Baltimore - his most wins against any opponent - and has recorded a 1.25 ERA in winning his last three starts at Camden Yards.
Cano has also been a big fan of playing in Baltimore. He went 2 for 4 Saturday, which actually dropped his season batting average at Camden Yards to .576 (19 for 33).
Tillman allowed one run and one hit in 6 2-3 innings of last Sunday’s 6-2 loss to Detroit, but walked a career-high six in 6 2-3 innings and didn’t receive a decision.
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two career starts against the Yankees.