NEW YORK -- After the New York Yankees held off a late charge from the Toronto Blue Jays, they could exhale and savor the boost they had hoped for and received from Andy Pettitte.
Pettitte pitched five shutout innings in the Yankees' 4-2 win in Game 1 of Wednesday's day-night doubleheader, his first start since June 27.
The victory put the Yankees up a half-game on the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East, pending Game 2 of the doubleheader and the Orioles' late game at the Seattle Mariners.
Omar Vizquel had two hits, nearly bringing the Blue Jays back while tying and passing Babe Ruth for 41st place on baseball's all-time hit list.
But the Yankees' bullpen held off the Blue Jays, allowing the Yankees to enjoy a win along with the fact they had their veteran lefty back for the stretch run and possible postseason matchups.
Pettitte (4-3) acknowledged he felt a little off in his first start since fracturing his left ankle after taking a line drive off it more than two months ago. But he said he felt 100 percent healthy. He also had the type of effective results he gave the Yankees when he came out of retirement in May before his season was interrupted.
"I felt pretty good. I didn't feel great," said Pettitte, who gave up four hits and struck out three while walking two. "I think that extra layoff I had probably actually hurt me a little bit as far as how my body felt, my legs and stamina. But all in all, it was good. I was able to get through it. I was able to make some pitches when I had to get through innings."
The Yankees held a 3-0 lead through seven innings, but barely clung to it in the eighth. Toronto scored twice against reliever David Robertson and loaded the bases with two outs.
Rafael Soriano, who had walked No. 9 hitter Anthony Gose to load the bases, got Rajai Davis on a line drive that appeared as if it might hit left fielder Ichiro Suzuki in the chest, as he seemed in danger of over running it, before he made the catch, holding on tight as he fell to his knees.
The Yankees added an insurance run to make it 4-2 on Nick Swisher's two-out RBI single in the eighth. The clutch hit followed Ichiro's double, his third hit of the game.
Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth for his 41st save of the season.
Pettitte (4-3) gave up four hits while walking two and striking out three. Expected to throw about 70 pitches, he left having thrown 75 after the fifth.
The Yankees scored three times in the first as the first three batters reached with hits against Henderson Alvarez (9-13). Robinson Cano doubled in a run, Alex Rodriguez drove in the second with a groundout and Curtis Granderson capped the inning's scoring with a sacrifice fly.
Pettitte pitched out of a second-inning jam, with help from Swisher. With two on and two outs, the first baseman beat Gose to the bag, sliding in ahead of him for the final out.
Alvarez shut out the Yankees for the next six innings, setting a career high with seven strikeouts. He allowed just two hits after the three-hit first.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell said Alvarez's changeup was especially effective and the pitcher said through a translator it was because he was "more aggressive" with it.
As for his ability to recover from the shaky first, Alvarez said, "I never lost my concentration. I stayed focused on the game. I was keeping the ball down after the first inning."
Pettitte, who had pitched impressively after he came out of retirement, fought hard to return. He had to wait an extra day after Tuesday's rainout, but looked sharp Wednesday.
But Toronto nearly tainted the outing, rallying against Robertson in the eighth with a double by Brett Lawrie and singles by Adam Lind and pinch hitter Kelly Johnson, plating the first Toronto run. Robertson struck out Moises Sierra, but gave up a double to Vizquel to make it 3-2. To add insult to injury, the hit was Vizquel's second of the game and moved him past Yankees icon Ruth on baseball's all-time hit list with 2,874.
Vizquel smiled as he realized someone had put a "Baby Ruth" candy bar in his locker and said he was stunned to pass the legend.
"I mean, this guy has been a legend in the game for a long time and, to mention my name right next to his just makes me feel so little," said Vizquel, who plans to retire after the season. "I never thought -- never, ever, in my career of baseball that's been a long one -- that I was gonna come close, to even compare my hits with the Babe. It's just unbelievable. It's very emotional, especially here in New York, the house that he built."
Robertson struck out Adeiny Hechavarria, before Soriano walked Gose and got Davis to end the inning.
NOTES: Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (bone bruise in his left ankle) was given Game 1 off. Manager Joe Girardi said he would see how Jeter handled fielding drills before Game 2 and then decide whether he'd return to the field or DH in the nightcap. ... Yankees' prospect Dellin Betances was promoted to the Yankees to be placed on the 60-day DL on Wednesday, to clear room on the 40-man roster for Pettitte. Betances, who went 6-9 with a 6.44 ERA for Class AA and Class AAA combined, had been shut down with shoulder inflammation. ... Edwin Encarnacion missed the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader with a toe injury. Adam Lind started at first base and Moises Sierra was the DH. Farrell said between games he didn't expect Encarnacion to start the second game, but was not immediately sure.