Andy Pettitte passed the Yankees' other famous left-hander from the Bayou State on the franchise's all-time strikeout list in Thursday night's 7-1 loss to the Phillies, moving into sole possession of second place when he caught Jayson Werth looking at a fastball in the second inning.
Pettitte finished the night with seven punchouts, giving him 1,784 in his career, behind only Whitey Ford's 1,956.
"It's just great to be up there with those guys. I'm not, never have been, and never will be concerned with who I pass or passing guys," said Pettitte. "Gator [Ron Guidry] makes it special for me, just because he's a good friend of mine."
Pettitte and Guidry may both wear their gloves on their right hands and have their roots in Louisiana, but they don't exactly share the same pitching style. Guidry earned his Louisiana Lightning moniker with his fastball and complemented it with his slider -- the one that helped him famously strike out 18 California Angels on June 17, 1978, exactly 32 years ago Thursday.
Pettitte, meanwhile, has never fanned more than a dozen in a contest, and it took him 96 more innings than Guidry to reach 1,778 strikeouts. Reaching the mark, then, is more a testament to his remarkable longevity.
"I just feel blessed and fortunate to be able to pitch this long and be in this organization -- it's such a great organization -- and hopefully continue to do good things here for them," Pettitte said.
Pettitte has been doing good things for the Yankees all season, even in his second loss of the year on Thursday. Pettitte submitted the kind of fine performance that is quickly becoming average for him in 2010. The left-hander limited the Phillies to three runs (two earned) on six hits in seven innings, only to be bested by Kyle Kendrick. It was his 11th start allowing two earned runs or fewer, the best in the American League.
Pettitte, of course, has higher standards for himself. A loss is a loss, regardless of the fact that for the first time this season the Yankees' offense didn't support him with multiple runs. Instead, he ruminated on his lone mistake -- a 2-2 cutter that Shane Victorino sneaked inside the left-field foul pole for a two-run homer in the fifth.
"I wasn't wholeheartedly behind it and threw it with not a whole lot of purpose behind it," said Pettitte, who got the cutter in on Victorino's hands but not down. "For me, it was a stupid pitch. It was just a poor decision on me to throw that pitch right there and where I threw it ... and it basically cost me the game tonight."
Otherwise, Pettitte was terrific. He was perfect through three before allowing an unearned run in the fourth, and he pitched himself in and out of trouble in the sixth and seventh frames. In the seventh, he struck out Ryan Howard with the bases loaded and unleashed an uncharacteristically enthusiastic fist pump -- the kind the left-hander usually reserves for autumn.
That was Pettitte's last pitch of the night, and neither the Yankees' bullpen nor its offense provided him with the proper support. The Phillies tacked on four insurance runs against Joba Chamberlain and Damaso Marte in the ninth, and the Yankees didn't have another baserunner after Placido Polanco snagged a Nick Swisher foul popup over the tarp to quell an uprising in the sixth.
"He did what he's done the entire year," Derek Jeter said. "Unfortunately, we didn't score enough runs."