9:53 am Sep. 25, 2012
How impressive, and crucial, has Andy Pettitte been for the Yankees since his return?
He threw six scoreless innings Monday night to help the Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins, 6-3. The win pushed the Yankees 1.5 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles, their largest lead since September 2.
Remember, this is a 40-year-old pitcher who did not pitch in 2011. Then, after nine fantastic starts with the Yankees in May and June, a fractured bone above his ankle cost him the better part of three months. The Yankees asked him to return in mid-September, without the benefit of any minor-league rehab starts (the minor league seasons are over), and pitch in the heat of a pennant race.
In two critical starts, over 11 innings, Pettitte hasn't allowed a run.
Pettitte's form has not only allowed the Yankees to all but secure a playoff spot already, it has ramifications for how the Yankees will deploy their starters next month as well. CC Sabathia is the ace, without question. Hiroki Kuroda, though, has struggled for the first time all season in September, pitching to a 5.63 E.R.A. over his last four starts without lasting more than 6 1/3 innings in any of them.Ivan Nova has been good in one start, terrible in the other since returning from the disabled list, while Phil Hughes has been good, but not great this month.
So having a pitcher like Andy Pettitte in top form, ready to go, is key for a Yankees team still hoping for a deep run in the playoffs.
Incredibly, that's precisely the Andy Pettitte they now seem to have.