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Sports

Pettitte Solid In Return, But Yanks Lose

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NEW YORK, NY - MAY 13: Andy Pettitte #46 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium on May 13, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 13: Andy Pettitte #46 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium on May 13, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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By HOWIE RUMBERG
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ Andy Pettitte stood on the mound at Yankee
Stadium with his hat pulled down low, peering in at the catcher
over the glove held high in front of his face.

It’s an image Yankees fans know well. This time, though, No. 46
was back on a big league mound for the first time in a year and a
half.

It was hard to tell.

Pettitte pitched effectively into the seventh inning Sunday, but
gave up a pair of two-run homers in New York’s 6-2 loss to the
Seattle Mariners.

“To me, he looked like he hadn’t missed a beat,” Yankees
manager Joe Girardi said.

Nearly lost amid the excitement over Pettitte’s first major
league appearance since retiring after the 2010 season was party
crasher Kevin Millwood’s performance for Seattle _ helped by three
double plays. The 37-year-old Millwood (1-4) gave up three hits in
seven innings and got his 2,000th career strikeout as Seattle
avoided a three-game sweep.

The Yankees tried to prevent their old pal Pettitte from taking
the loss with a rally in the eighth against four Seattle relievers.
Robinson Cano was walked with two outs by Charlie Furbush with the
bases loaded to make it 4-2. Mark Teixeira, though, struck out to
end the inning.

The lovefest for Pettitte (0-1) began when the lefty appeared
with several players in videos welcoming fans to Yankee Stadium
after batting practice. The cheers grew as he strolled out to the
bullpen for warm-ups and fans rose for a standing ovation when the
five-time World Series champion followed his teammates onto the
field for the first inning.

“I just cannot believe how comfortable this is for me,”
Pettitte said. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

The Core Four member who turns 40 next month even got special
treatment from the Bleacher Creatures. They broke protocol after
their roll call and started a chant for Pettitte that most of the
41,631 in attendance joined. The Creatures rarely include the
starting pitcher when calling out player’s names in the first
inning.

The stadium got awful quiet when Casper Wells homered in the
sixth to give Seattle a 4-1 lead with his first of the season, an
opposite-field drive off the netting on the right-field pole.
Justin Smoak homered for Seattle’s first hit with two outs in the
fourth.

“I thought it was so awesome. I was so excited. I know we lost
today and that’s what a lot of people are going to focus on _ I
could really care less about that,” Yankees outfielder Nick
Swisher said. “We got our boy back.”

Pettitte’s return had become more important to the Yankees
because their rotation had been struggling, with Freddy Garcia
demoted to the bullpen. But through the first five games of this
homestand, the team’s starters were 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA and Girardi
thought their performance would take some of the pressure off
Pettitte.

The broad-chested Texan appeared calm as ever in his first big
league start in 573 days, since Game 3 of the AL championship
series against Texas on Oct. 18, 2010. He sat out last season
before deciding in mid-March to make a comeback.

After Swisher caught leadoff batter Dustin Ackley’s fly to right
with a leap at the wall, Pettitte walked Wells. He then got Ichiro
Suzuki to ground into a double play. Pettitte walked Alex Liddi
with two outs in the second but Mike Carp grounded out to end the
inning.

Not having allowed a hit two outs into the fourth, Pettitte
walked former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero and Smoak lined a
homer to left. Pettitte showed characteristically little emotion on
the mound.

Wells homered following Ackley’s leadoff single in the sixth.
The Mariners then loaded the bases with one out on three straight
singles but Girardi stuck with Pettitte, and Carp grounded to
first. Teixeira stepped on the base and threw home, and catcher
Russell Martin tagged a sliding Montero.

Pettitte returned for one batter in the seventh and induced his
12th groundball out. He left to a loud ovation despite trailing 4-1
and waved to fans as he entered the dugout.

“There is not a question in my mind how this is all going to
play out for me,” Pettitte said. “It’s not about this one start.
I’ll measure if this was a successful return or not at the end of
October.”

Millwood almost missed out on the 2011 season, too, but not by
choice. He spent much of the season in the minors with the Yankees
and Red Sox before joining the Colorado Rockies’ rotation in
August. He signed with Seattle in the offseason.

“I thought he was outstanding today,” Mariners manager Eric
Wedge said. “He did a great job with his secondary stuff.”

Millwood had little trouble in his best start of the season.
With runners on first and second in the third, he got Derek Jeter
to ground into the first of his two double plays.

Jeter also hit into an inning-ending double play after Millwood
walked Martin to force in a run in the fifth. Alex Rodriguez
grounded sharply into a 6-4-3 double play after a leadoff walk to
Curtis Granderson, one of four walks by Millwood.

“We turned some big double plays,” Millwood said.

Millwood fanned Granderson leading off the fourth for his
2,000th career strikeout.

NOTES: Jeter’s single in the eighth was hit No. 3,142, tying him
for 16th place on the career list with Robin Yount. … Wells’
homer was the Mariners’ first hit with runners in scoring position
this series. They were 0 for 10 coming in.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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