NEW YORK (Reuters) - Andy Pettitte pitched five scoreless innings in his first start since suffering a broken ankle in June as the New York Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-2 on Wednesday to inch ahead in the American League East race.
The win in the first game of a day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium gave New York a half-game division lead over the Baltimore Orioles with two weeks left in the regular season.
Pettitte, winner of five World Series rings with the Yankees and Major League Baseball’s all-time leader with 19 postseason wins, had not pitched since June 27 when he fractured an ankle on a ball hit back at him, but he showed he still had the knack.
“I felt good,” Pettitte told reporters at his locker. “It was great to get back out there and give them a decent outing and give us a chance to win.”
The Yankees scored three runs in the first inning off Toronto starter Henderson Alvarez and that provided all the support Pettitte would need, as he gave up four hits, walked two and struck out three in 75 pitches that included 46 strikes.
Toronto rallied for two runs in the eighth off reliever David Robertson, who left with runners on second and third and two outs. Closer Rafael Soriano came on and walked Anthony Gose to load the bases before getting Rajai Davis on a liner to left.
New York added some insurance in their half of the eighth on a two-out double by Ichiro Suzuki and Nick Swisher’s run-scoring single, and Soriano retired the side in the ninth for his 41st save.
The win improved the 40-year-old Pettitte to 4-3 and lowered his earned run average to 2.97, giving hope he would provide a boost for the Yankees in the last two weeks of the season.
Alvarez shut the Yanks down after the his bumpy start but dropped to 9-13 on the season.
Pettitte escaped trouble in his middle three innings, pitching out of first-and-third jams in the second, third and fourth innings, as he induced ground-ball outs when needed, including an inning-ending double play from clean-up hitter Adam Lind in the third.
New York jumped out to the lead as the first three batters stroked hits off Alvarez to send the Bombers on their way.
Ichiro singled sharply to right, Swisher lined a single to center and Robinson Cano hit a booming double to center to drive in the first run. A ground out by Alex Rodriguez and a sacrifice fly from Curtis Granderson plated the other two baserunners.
Editing by Frank Pingue