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04/21/09 11:50 PM ET

Pettitte, Mo tie record as Yanks top A's

Defense lends big hand to help duo reach win-save mark

NEW YORK -- Shaking hands as Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" rained down on the infield, Mariano Rivera approached Andy Pettitte, offering his long-time teammate a milestone baseball.

Pettitte smiled, telling the closer to keep this one -- he'd wait for the next one. The hurlers tied an all-time record for win-save combinations as the Yankees defeated the A's, 5-3, at the first night game at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday.

"It's special, definitely -- it is special," Rivera said. "The most important thing is that we won the game. He gave us a good performance today and we were able to put some runs on the board and hold it."

Mariano Rivera
Rivera and Pettitte were two indispensable cornerstones of the dynasty Yankees clubs, and for the 57th time, the closer nailed down a save for the left-hander, equaling the mark achieved by Oakland's Dennis Eckersley and Bob Welch.

It is truly a winning relationship. Even with Pettitte's three-year departure to pitch for the Astros, Rivera has secured 31 percent of Pettitte's 180 victories for the Yankees.

"It's a lot of longevity," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "The way they take care of themselves, the way they work at their trade, to have that opportunity to tie that is pretty amazing. Those two guys have been staples here for a long time."

Once teammates coming up through the system, Pettitte said he has considered what his career might have been without Rivera in the late innings. The southpaw is glad that he never had to approach that as reality.

"You see how organizations struggle to find guys to close out their games, and it's a huge part of the game," Pettitte said. "This organization has been very, very fortunate to have him."

On a cool, foggy evening in the Bronx, the Yankees were lucky to have the benefit of a strong start from Pettitte once again, his third in three outings this season.

Though he didn't have the best command of his fastball, Pettitte credited catcher Jorge Posada in helping guide him through seven innings, scattering nine hits while limiting the A's to two runs over a 105-pitch performance.

"I think he got better as the game went along," Posada said. "He kept getting ahead with his curveball and threw it for a strike. That's one pitch I knew I had."

"Andy knows what it takes to pitch here," Girardi said. "He understands what it's like to be on that mound at Yankee Stadium and pitch in tough ballgames. We always know that Andy is going to grit it out. That's what he does."

Walking none and striking out none, Pettitte benefited from some flashy glove work. In the first inning, Jason Giambi -- making his New York return after seven years in pinstripes -- mashed a ball to deep center field that turned Brett Gardner around, showing the "11" on his back to the infield.

Ranging toward left-center, Gardner tracked the drive down with a sensational leaping catch, robbing Giambi of what would have been a sure extra-base hit.

"Brett seems to have that extra gear that a lot of us are not blessed with," Girardi said.

A key 3-3-2 double play turned by Mark Teixeira helped Pettitte escape the third inning unscathed, cutting down Kurt Suzuki in a rundown, and Teixeira also made a nifty defensive play on a fielder's choice in the fourth inning.

"I need defense," Pettitte said. "I'm going to hopefully not walk a whole lot of guys and I don't strike out a whole lot. I put the ball in play. I need my defense out there to make plays and help me out, for sure."

The Yankees touched Oakland starter Dana Eveland for four runs -- all in the second inning. Gardner drilled a two-run single past the drawn-in infield, scoring Nick Swisher and Hideki Matsui.

Johnny Damon drove in New York's third run with a single to right-center, but was thrown out stretching at second base by center fielder Rajai Davis. Teixeira followed with a broken-bat single to left to drive home the fourth Yankee run.

Damon padded the lead with his second home run of the year in the sixth inning, a solo shot to the second deck in right field off of reliever Andrew Bailey.

The blast was the 21st hit in five regular-season games at the new building, but Damon made sure to note this -- the only long ball hit Tuesday -- was no cheapie.

"At the other stadium, I hit it so well that it definitely would have been in the upper deck," Damon said.

Walking none and striking out none, Pettitte allowed both runs in the fourth inning, on a Mark Ellis fielder's choice that scored Giambi and a Suzuki single that brought home Matt Holliday.

That was all, as Pettitte logged his 26th April victory as a Yankee -- the most in franchise history -- and won his first start at the new Stadium after closing out the old one with a victory on Sept. 21.

"Andy's been a big-game pitcher for us throughout the years," Derek Jeter said. "You always feel comfortable with him on the mound, whether he's going good or bad, because you know that even when he doesn't have his best stuff, he's going to battle."

Brian Bruney allowed a single to Jack Cust in the eighth -- snapping a personal string of 22 consecutive batters retired -- and a run-scoring double to Ellis. But then Rivera came on to the familiar strains of "Enter Sandman," putting the finishing touches on a very familiar box score.

"Andy's going to give you whatever he has," Posada said. "He's going to throw it all out there and, win or lose, he's still going to be the same. He gives you whatever he's got to get a win. And then you've got Mariano coming in -- it's good to see him out there again. Mariano, I don't have to talk too much about."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.