Commentary

Andy, A-Rod propel Yanks to victory

Pettitte is off to best start of his career; Rodriguez continues his historical charge

Updated: June 1, 2010, 10:07 AM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- With a long grand slam to center in the bottom of the seventh inning that broke open a one-run game, Alex Rodriguez provided plenty of fireworks as he continued his climb up the all-time home run list in the Yankees' Memorial Day win over the Indians on Monday.

There was plenty of reason to celebrate A-Rod's noteworthy slam, which moved him into third place on the all-time grand slam list and put him just 10 homers shy of 600 for his career.

[+] EnlargeAndy Pettitte
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesWhere would the Yankees be without Andy Pettitte?

But all of that shouldn't overshadow the steady hand of Andy Pettitte, who stifled the Indians over seven innings and proved once again why he is so valuable to the Bombers.

Somehow, at the ripe old age of 37, Pettitte is off to the best start of his 15-year career (7-1) after allowing just one run and striking out five in the Yankees' 11-2 victory.

His 2.48 ERA and 19 runs allowed are his lowest career totals in both categories through 10 starts.

"Andy's unbelievable," Rodriguez said. "I really feel like he's pitching better than he has in his career."

Pettitte retired his last 14 batters on Monday, which was the sixth start this season in which he has allowed one or fewer runs.

And it was the Yankees' six-run seventh inning, rather than any Indians hitter, that knocked Pettitte from the game, preventing him from earning his first complete game of the year.

Manager Joe Girardi decided to pull him after the Yankees sent 10 hitters to the plate and the Indians made two pitching changes in a lengthy bottom of the seventh.

"I was starting to feel a little tight," said Pettitte, who improved to 6-0 in his six daytime starts this season and tied Whitey Ford on the all-time Yankees wins list (236).

There was also no need for Pettitte to risk injury after the Yanks took a 7-1 lead thanks to A-Rod's 20th career slam, which came on a 3-1 fastball from Chris Perez that Rodriguez drilled deep over the 408 mark in center field.

Rodriguez now trails only Lou Gehrig (23) and Manny Ramirez (21) in career slams. And he's now 19 homers away from Sammy Sosa (609), who is sixth on the all-time list.

Clearly, Indians manager Manny Acta wasn't going by the books when he decided to walk Mark Teixeira after Indians starter Mitch Talbot fell behind Tex, 3-0. A-Rod had hit grand slams the previous two times Teixeira was walked in front of him to load the bases entering the at-bat, according to STATS, Inc.

With the homer, Rodriguez improved to 5-for-5 with a walk, three homers and 18 RBIs when Teixeira is walked to load the bases in front of him.

He's also 5-for-9 with 16 RBIs with the bases loaded this season.

"At 3-0 on Mark, it wasn't very difficult at all," Acta said of the decision to put Teixeira on. "We … wanted to set up a double play possibility with Alex. By the time it got to 3-1, Alex knew what was coming and he didn't miss it."

Robinson Cano followed A-Rod's blast with a solo shot as the Yankees, who've now won five of seven to improve to 31-20, hit back-to-back homers for the second time this season. The Yankees' 18 hits on Monday were also a season high, and they scored in double digits for the seventh time this year.

And Rodriguez registered season highs with his three hits and six RBIs. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Monday was Rodriguez's 13th career game with at least six RBIs. That's the second-highest total (behind only Lou Gehrig's 14) since 1920, when the RBI became an official statistic.

But, A-Rod's statistical pursuits and historical perspectives aside, it's simply remarkable to watch Pettitte right now.

Pettitte said after the game that he wasn't sure how many more years he'd play in the big leagues. It was only after talking to his family when he decided to sign a one-year contract with the Yanks in December, and he said he'll likely go through the same process this offseason.

"I just can't think long-term as far as any kind of extension or anything like that," Pettitte said. "I don't know what's going to happen, but I just can't see myself playing a lot lot longer. … We'll see."

So there's no guarantees Pettitte will be back in the Bronx next year for season No. 16. Enjoy him while you can.

Ian Begley is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com

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