Yankees coast to fifth straight victory
Giambi's two home runs back Pettitte's seven shutout innings
NEW YORK -- It was thirty years to the date that Ron Guidry struck out a team-record 18 batters, blazing through the California Angels lineup with every bit of Louisiana lightning he could muster.
On that same mound three decades later, Andy Pettitte yanked his hat low and replicated half of Guidry's historic performance. It was plenty, as the left-hander's seven scoreless innings helped the Yankees down the Padres, 8-0, on an evening when Pettitte surpassed his good friend on the club's all-time wins list.
With the help of two home runs from Jason Giambi and a solo shot by Alex Rodriguez, Pettitte recorded the 171st win of his pinstriped career, moving past Guidry for sole possession of fourth place.
"I'm thankful that I've been able to be here this long and be healthy enough to continue to pitch," Pettitte said. "Obviously, you all know how I feel about Gator. I have a great relationship with him. He's a wonderful man, and it's an honor for me to be able to have as many wins as him."
Provided with early run support as the Yankees took the bats out against left-hander Randy Wolf, Pettitte was able to put his game into cruise control. Winning his second consecutive start, Pettitte scattered five hits over seven innings, walking one and striking out nine as San Diego only once moved a runner as far as third base -- that coming on a fifth-inning wild pitch.
"Any time Andy takes the mound, we expect a quality performance," Girardi said. "We're so used to seeing it. That's how you get to be fourth all-time on the Yankee list, and he even took a three-year sabbatical. He's one of the guys that we've been counting on."
It wasn't always that way for Pettitte, who was floundering, but appears to have turned a corner in his past two starts. Since he gave up 10 runs in a June 7 no-decision against the Royals, Pettitte has worked 15 innings of one-run ball, good for an 0.60 ERA over that span.
"It's been frustrating for me, because I've been feeling so good for so long," Pettitte said. "The biggest difference is when you're feeling comfortable doing everything, it's got to be pitch selection and location.
"I feel like I'm using both sides of the plate a lot more, using soft stuff away a lot more instead of just trying to pound everyone in with my fastball. More than anything, I'm pitching out there instead of being one dimensional."
With Pettitte firing zeroes, the Yankees wasted little time getting going. Rodriguez opened the scoring in the second, when he connected on his 13th home run of the year, a solo shot to center off Wolf.
The home run was Rodriguez's third in as many games and the 186th of his Yankees career, moving him past Paul O'Neill for 16th place on the club's all-time list. He, like Pettitte, has been a key ingredient in the club's recent success -- in the 27 games since A-Rod was reinstated from the disabled list, the Yankees are 18-9 and the club has averaged 5.77 runs per game.
"He's been a big part of it," Girardi said. "He changes our lineup a lot. He's a hard guy to replace in the middle of your order. You drive in 150-plus runs the year before, and that's hard to replace. He's gotten big hits and played excellent defense over there. He's a big part of this lineup, and that's why he's got three MVPs."
Giambi posted the 37th multihomer game of his career and his second of the season, taking Wolf deep twice in the left-hander's aborted outing. Giambi belted a solo shot to right in the second inning and also clubbed a two-run shot in the fourth, giving him a team-leading 17 before he was lifted for pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit with a large lead.
After the Yankees moved a season-high five games over .500, Giambi expressed confidence that the club may have finally broken through.
"I don't want to speak too soon, but we're taking good at-bats and we're pitching well," Giambi said. "Guys are healthy -- A-Rod's picking us up, Jorge [Posada]'s picking us up behind me. It definitely feels like we're really starting to put it together."
The Yankees added five more runs in the fourth inning, padding their lead. Second baseman Craig Stansberry missed a throw at second base for an error, allowing a run to score and keeping the bases loaded, and Bobby Abreu also knocked in a run with a fielder's-choice grounder to Stansberry. Wolf threw a wild pitch with Rodriguez batting to bring in New York's seventh run.
Wolf was done after four innings, allowing seven runs -- five earned -- on six hits while walking two and striking out two in an 89-pitch outing. The Yankees added a run in the eighth off reliever Carlos Guevara while Jose Veras, Billy Traber and Mariano Rivera finished up for the Yankees.
Provided the large cushion, Pettitte cruised over a 103-pitch performance, posting his second consecutive victory while tying a season-high with nine strikeouts. Five of those strikeouts were of the called variety, which Girardi said spoke volumes about the veteran's regained command of the zone after clunkers against the Twins and Royals late last month.
"He's just making his pitches," Girardi said. "He made a couple of mistakes in those games and didn't get away with them, but he's been really sharp with his location. His curveball has been excellent. He's mixing his pitches and just being Andy Pettitte."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.