Pettitte put the Yankees back on track again Sunday, running his shutout stretch to 19 consecutive innings and helping New York avoid a three-game sweep with a 4-1 victory over the last-place Cincinnati Reds.
By tossing six clean innings, the left-hander improved to 75-37 after a regular-season Yankees loss, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“I wouldn’t say I relish it. You’d rather be on a seven-game winning streak,” Pettitte said. “I’m just thankful that I gave us a good start. It can get away from you so easy even when you feel good.”
Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 601st home run, but the Reds are still looking for their first three-game road sweep since last July at Atlanta.
Cincinnati won its previous five games at Yankee Stadium, including visits during the 1961 and ’76 World Series.
“We wanted this one badly, but it’s tough to sweep these guys,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Jason Giambi had a two-run double and Robinson Cano snapped a scoreless tie with a sacrifice fly in the fifth, sending the Yankees to their 13th win in 18 games. They lost reliever Kyle Farnsworth to injury, however, when he tried to barehand Brandon Phillips’ infield single in the eighth.
Farnsworth received three stitches between his right ring finger and pinky. New York manager Joe Girardi said he doesn’t anticipate the right-hander needing a stint on the disabled list.
“It happened in A-ball, same exact spot,” Farnsworth said. “If I had time to think about it, there’s no way I would have done it. It happened so quick. Just reaction. … Hopefully I won’t miss any time.”
Mariano Rivera came on and got four outs for his 21st save in 21 chances. Cincinnati put runners at the corners in the ninth before Rivera struck out pinch-hitter Adam Dunn and retired Norris Hopper on a comebacker.
Pettitte (8-5) allowed only four singles and two walks, handing rookie Johnny Cueto (5-8) a hard-luck loss. Both departed following a rain delay in the middle of the sixth.
Griffey pulled Farnsworth’s eighth-inning pitch into the front row of right-field seats for his eighth home run this year and first at Yankee Stadium since May 8, 1999, with Seattle.
New York is scheduled to move into a sparkling new ballpark next season.
“It’s always been fun,” Griffey said. “If you can’t get hyped here, then you can’t do it anywhere.”
The ball was caught by a smiling fan wearing a Reds shirt, and the crowd of 54,234 gave Griffey a standing ovation as he rounded the bases.
“It was nice. I enjoyed it,” said Griffey, who hit No. 600 on June 9 at Florida.
Pettitte is 5-0 with a 3.61 ERA in his last seven starts. He has won three straight since giving up 10 runs in a no-decision June 7 against Kansas City, allowing only a second-inning run June 12 at Oakland.
“Andy is back to being Andy,” Girardi said. “He’s been on a nice little run. He’s been a big-game pitcher for a long time.”
Despite an injury-depleted rotation, New York starters are 6-2 with a 1.71 ERA in the past 10 games.
Pettitte pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth, then escaped more trouble in the sixth.
After a 56-minute delay, Derek Jeter opened the bottom of the sixth with a single off Gary Majewski. Hideki Matsui singled with two outs and Giambi hit an opposite-field drive that sliced away from Hopper in left field with help from the wind.
Giambi also singled leading off the fifth and went to third on Posada’s double off Cueto. Cano followed with a long sacrifice fly.
Giambi finished with three hits and his second stolen base.
“I might go 40-4 this year,” he joked.
Cueto, who has lost three starts in a row after winning three straight, flashed the nasty stuff that’s made him so tough at times this year. He yielded one run and four hits in five innings, striking out seven and walking none.
It is Pettitte’s longest scoreless stretch since a career-best 23-inning streak in 1997. … Reds 3B Edwin Encarnacion left in the third with lower back spasms. He is day to day. … Griffey was Cincinnati’s DH again. He has 19 career homers at Yankee Stadium. … Farnsworth became the 384th pitcher to give up a home run to Griffey. … Baker benched the slumping Dunn for a day. Dunn is mired in a 6-for-55 skid. … Pettitte’s seven pickoffs this season are his most since he had seven in 2001. … The Yankees are off Monday before beginning a three-game series Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, their first trip to the Steel City since losing the 1960 World Series on Bill Mazeroski’s famous home run in Game 7.