Yanks look for lengthy start from Pettitte

Yanks look for lengthy start from Pettitte

ANAHEIM -- The scare came mid-week, when a newspaper report claimed that Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte was going to miss his next start with stiffness in his pitching arm. For a few moments, there was confusion, because Pettitte's health had seemed perfectly sound. Then he denied it. Manager Joe Girardi denied it. And Pettitte remained on track to start Sunday's series finale against the Angels.

But the scare -- however brief -- did underscore the worries the Yankees have about their rotation. With Joba Chamberlain and Chien-Ming Wang and Phil Hughes all injured, this team needs Pettitte and Mike Mussina now more than ever.

And with the Yankees continuing to lose, this team needs wins more than ever.

"Quite honestly, we can't look back now," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "We're running out of games. So we need to move on from this point. We need to play well."

Not that Saturday's loss was the fault of the starting rotation. Dan Giese pitched as well as the Yankees could have hoped, but the bullpen lost his lead and spoiled that effort, which, of course, heaped a bit more pressure onto the shoulders of Pettitte.

Since beating the Red Sox at the apex of the Yankees' hot streak, Pettitte has endured his worst small stretch of the season. He allowed nine runs to these Angels last week in New York, then served up five more to the Rangers in Arlington. In each instance, the Yankees needed far more length and far more success from Pettitte.

They'll need both of those things again on Sunday afternoon, because the Yankees simply cannot afford a sweep at the hands of the Angels. Every game now is critical.

"They're all important," Jeter said. "We need to come out and win."

And they certainly need to win with Pettitte on the mound, when they have a good idea of what their starting pitcher might give them.

During Pettitte's starts, perhaps they can still be the Yankees of old.

"This team has all the talent to win everything," catcher Ivan Rodriguez said. "But we've got to start winning."

Pitching matchup
NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (12-9, 4.34 ERA)
Three walks and a Josh Hamilton home run doomed Pettitte in his last start Tuesday against the Rangers, knocking him out of the game after only five innings. Pettitte never quite recovered from his early struggles, allowing stray runs in the second and fourth innings before serving up consecutive singles to open the sixth. Those hits ended his night. Pettitte has lost back-to-back games and has produced a 12.19 ERA during that stretch, with most of the damage coming against Sunday's opponent, the Angels.

LAA: LHP Joe Saunders (14-5, 3.03 ERA)
Saunders allowed just one earned run on six hits in six innings against the Orioles on Monday but was stuck with a no-decision when Francisco Rodriguez couldn't hold a four-run lead in the ninth. It marked the 15th time in 22 starts that Saunders allowed two earned runs or fewer. He's been the most consistent starter for the Angels this season, but has yet to pitch against the Yankees. Saunders is 1-1 with a 10.80 ERA against New York in his career.

Pitcher Darrell Rasner was sporting a spot of powder on his right index finger Saturday to combat a blister that has bothered him for nearly two weeks. Rasner said the blister hurt but did not rip during his Friday night outing. ... Catcher Ivan Rodriguez was back in the starting lineup Saturday, no longer bothered by the deep bruise in his right knee. ... Johnny Damon was the designated hitter on Saturday and may remain so indefinitely after slamming his left shoulder into the wall on Friday. "I'll just stay off my feet," Damon said. ... Melky Cabrera's single in the fifth inning Saturday snapped an 0-for-18 skid.

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Up next
• Monday: Yankees (Sidney Ponson, 7-2, 4.23) at Twins (Glen Perkins, 8-3, 4.38), 8:10 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 15-7, 3.27) at Twins (Nick Blackburn, 9-6, 3.60), 8:10 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Yankees (Ian Kennedy, 0-4, 8.17) at Twins (TBD), 1:10 p.m. ET

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