‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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There’s plenty of mileage left in Andy Pettitte’s left arm. The 39-year-old went 7.1 scoreless innings Tuesday night and struck out 10 batters as the Yankees defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 7-0.

More importantly, Pettitte stretched himself to the 103-pitch mark.  It’s like he hasn’t missed a beat, which is remarkable considering he took 19 months off.

On average, Pettitte has thrown 103.6 pitches per outing in his five starts since his May 13 return.  His 2012 record is now 3-2 with an ERA of 2.78.  Pettitte’s command, control and confidence are all apparent.

“I’ve been telling you all along I’ve been real happy with the command and feel of all my pitches. I didn’t think it would come back so quick,” Pettitte told Larry Fleisher of Metro New York post-game.

His velocity is down from years past, yet Pettitte has stuck out 32 batters through 35.2 innings pitched.

“I don’t really try to strike guys out,” Pettitte said to reporters. “I feel like I am able to keep guys off-balance. My command was really good tonight.”

Guts have always been Andy’s calling card.  He’s giving Joe Girardi deep starts, which is important considering the Yankees’ bullpen is weakened by injury and without the services of Mariano Rivera and David Robertson.

The ageless Andy is proving that 39 is just a number.  We’ve all watched Jamie Moyer’s career with astonishment.  In a few weeks, Pettitte will turn 40.  At that age, Moyer gave the 2003 Seattle Mariners an outstanding year.  He produced a 21-7 record with a 3.27 ERA.

Obviously, Pettitte won’t come anywhere near 21 regular season victories in half a season, but he’s primed to be a key contributor for the Yankees in the summer months and down the stretch run.

The soon to be 40-year-old Pettitte still has plenty of natural zip on his pitches and is the master of gutting out 7-inning outings when his stuff isn’t his best.

That clearly wasn’t the case on Tuesday as Pettitte was an peak form.  He mowed down Rays at will and only surrendered two hits and two walks.  70 of his 103 total pitches were strikes.

The Yankees currently sit a half-game behind the Rays and Baltimore Orioles who are jointly-tied for first place in the AL East.  Going into the season, I though the Rays would win the division in a landslide but the presence of Pettitte is forcing me to change my tune.

Mark my words, Pettitte will be a big reason why the Yankees will separate themselves from the rest of the pack and capture the AL East division crown at season’s end.

Does Pettitte’s masterful comeback give the Yankees the edge over opponents in the AL East race?  Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.

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