Yankees power past Twins 6-3; Pettitte wins again
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Andy Pettitte shrugged off another ageless performance by claiming he's still not as sharp as he wants to be.
The New York Yankees are plenty pleased by the way he's been pitching.
Pettitte threw six scoreless innings and the Yankees hit four home runs Monday to beat the Minnesota Twins 6-3 and extend their AL East lead.
"I'm happy to get through it, happy to give us a good start," Pettitte said, adding: "It's just there's definitely some room for me to improve.
The Yankees took a 1 1/2-game edge over Baltimore, which split a doubleheader with Toronto. This is the first time since after play on Sept. 2 their margin has been more than one game. According to STATS research, the 21-day stretch during which the Yankees and Orioles were separated by one game or less was the second-longest September streak in Major League Baseball history, the most days since 1897.
"Right now I feel like everything is kind of rolling for us. It's real calm in here. It's relaxed. Guys are having a ton of fun," said Nick Swisher, who was the first to take Liam Hendriks (1-8) deep.
After playing three tense, one-run games against Oakland during the weekend, including their startling comeback for a 14-inning win on Saturday, the Yankees enjoyed an easy one for a change. This was New York's 10th victory in 12 games.
Pettitte (5-3) hasn't given up a run in 11 innings since rejoining the rotation last week. The 40-year-old threw five scoreless innings against Toronto to mark his comeback from a broken lower left leg that kept him out for almost three months.
His successful unretirement, after supposedly ending his remarkable career in 2010, has been a big help for the banged-up Yankees even though this was only his 11th start of the season.
Swisher's two-out, two-run homer in the first inning off Liam Hendriks (1-8) sailed into the seats above right-center field to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Curtis Granderson's solo shot in the fourth went even higher and farther, landing in the second deck. Granderson became the fourth player in the majors to hit 40 homers this season.
In the bottom of that inning, Granderson made a postseason-worthy throw from center field after fielding a two-out single as Ryan Doumit raced from second base to home. The ball arrived just in time, and catcher Russell Martin made a quick sweep tag that grazed Doumit's shoulder a spilt-second before his hand touched the plate.
Then in the seventh, Raul Ibanez — who is 7 for 12 with three homers in his last three games — went deep with a drive that reached the standing room space near the gate beyond right field. Eric Chavez added one more home run against Hendriks, an opposite-field liner with one out that barely reached the flower bed in left.
"It's a good lineup. There's no breaks in it. There's no breathers," said Hendriks, who recorded his first major league win last week at Cleveland after 17 starts without one. He gave up eight hits, six runs and one walk, striking out four over 6 1-3 innings.