Loss Doesn't Make Andy Pettitte's Return a Failure

Pettitte gives up two homers and Yankee bats go silent

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Pettitte's return points the rotation in the right direction.

    Sunday's return of Andy Pettitte to the Yankees was a perfect example of the limits of wins and losses to tell the story of a pitcher's day.

    Pettitte allowed four runs in 6.1 innings of his first game since October 2010, the kind of pitching line that could be interpreted two ways based on whether there's a W or L next to his name.

    If it's a win, then Pettitte gutted out a strong performance in his first game back in the big leagues and never lost his winning touch.

    In a loss, though, Pettitte just couldn't do quite enough to get the job done and the two two-run home runs he allowed are a sign that his stuff might just be a little too hittable to work after such a long layoff. But what's the glib shorthand when Pettitte loses because the offense doesn't do a thing?

    The Yankees scored both of their runs in a 6-2 loss when Mariners pitchers issued walks with the bases loaded. One hit in those situations busts the game open, the way the Yankees were able to break open the games in their 6-2 wins (something about that score in the Bronx this weekend) in the first two games of the series.

    Pettitte wasn't as sharp as you'd like him to be, but he was certainly sharp enough to win the game with a little bit of assistance from the lineup. Kevin Millwood shut down the Yankee bats, however, and Pettitte took the loss in a game that still felt like a win for the Yankees in the long term.

    Pettitte was much better than anyone else the Yankees have on hand for the fifth spot in their rotation and, if you assume that things will improve from here, probably even a little bit higher. His appearance also seemed to light a fire under Phil Hughes.

    Hughes had his best start of this year, last year and all the way back to the first half of the 2010 season when he allowed just one run in 7.2 innings of work. That's two straight quality starts for Hughes, who has edged his way back into a place of some confidence after a miserable April that seemed to have him ticketed for a different role.

    Freddy Garcia was even worse, though, and Michael Pineda -- Jesus Montero's return to the Bronx was thankfully not good enough to touch off another wave of hatred about that trade -- blew out his shoulder, so Hughes got more rope. To the surprise of many, he's used it to climb out of a pit instead of hang himself.

    The Yankees got just one win on Saturday and Sunday, but they still came out of it with better feelings about two-fifths of the rotation than they have had all season. That works well enough for the middle of May.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.