Pitching under the watchful eye of George Steinbrenner, Andy Pettitte may have saved his spot in the Yankees' rotation. And his job in New York, too.
Pettitte, squarely on the trading block during a disappointing season, survived one bad inning Saturday and helped the Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves 11-4.
"Every year I've been here, my name has turned up in trade talks," Pettitte said. "I wasn't thinking about that. I love it here and I want to stay here. But wherever I'm meant to be, I'll be."
Pettitte (6-7) lasted 5 2/3 innings and slightly lowered his ERA to a still-high 5.55.
Bernie Williams and Chuck Knoblauch homered early, and the Yankees batted around in a five-run fifth to block the Braves' bid for a three-game sweep.
New York scored in its last six innings in stopping Atlanta's four-game winning streak in the interleague matchup of division leaders.
The sellout crowd of 55,785 observed a moment of silence before the game for John F. Kennedy Jr. and his family. Kennedy, who sat in a front-row box next to the Yankees dugout Thursday night, was reported missing in his flight to Martha's Vineyard.
"He was at our ballpark the other night," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "It was very sad to hear that."
Later, the fans chanted "Go on strike!" at the umpires when Brian Jordan's drive down the right-field line -- which replays showed was foul -- was ruled a home run by first-base ump Ted Barrett. The crowd also cheered when plate umpire Chuck Meriwether's mask was knocked off by a foul tip. "
Pettitte (6-7) heard cheers when he skipped off the mound in the sixth with an 8-3 lead. He won for only the third time in nine starts.
Earlier this week, Steinbrenner said Pettitte needed to show improvement, and the owner watched from his box. With the Florida Marlins offering former World Series MVP Livan Hernandez and other pitchers possibly available, the Yankees want to set their rotation for an anticipate run in the postseason.
"It's always tough when your name is bandied around and batted around in trade talks," Torre said. "It has to affect you. You try to not let it, but it has to. "
"I just want Andy to get a few games under his belt so he can breathe easier," he said. "I know it's there. I thought he performed fine."
Pettitte, whose best effort ever came when he beat Atlanta 1-0 in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, needed only 16 pitches in the first three innings. He struck out Javy Lopez with the bases loaded to end the fourth, then ran into trouble in the fifth.
Gerald Williams hit a tying, three-run homer off the left-field foul screen against his former teammate. But Pettitte then escaped a second-and-third, one-out jam and did not allow another run.
"It was just one bad pitch, really," Torre said.
Jason Grimsley worked 3 1/3 innings for his second major league save, and first since May 8, 1995 with Cleveland.
Odalis Perez (4-6) struck out the side in the first inning, and did not permit a hit until Joe Girardi's infield single in the third. Knoblauch followed with a home run.
Perez was tagged for eight runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out seven, and fell to 0-4 in six starts since his last win.
Perez worked for the first time since July 5. He was ill and missed a scheduled start July 9.
"It's tough to come back and throw perfect pitches," he said.
|The Yankees paused for a moment of silence before the game for John F. Kennedy Jr. who was reported missed Saturday.|
Paul O'Neill, who had three hits, had an RBI single in the fifth and an RBI double in the sixth. Scott Brosius also had three hits, singling home runs in the fifth and eighth.
Eddie Perez had a career-high four hits for Atlanta. Braves shortstop Ozzie Guillen was ejected by Barrett after being called out on a close play in the eighth.
- Sunday is Yogi Berra Day at Yankee Stadium, with Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto and Don Mattingly expected to attend the festivities. Berra and Steinbrenner patched up their 13-year long feud last winter.
- Lopez, who came off the disabled list Thursday, may not catch until mid-week because of a sore right knee. He was the DH in this series.
- Yankees OF Shane Spencer, eligible to come off the DL on Sunday, will remain at the minor league complex in Tampa until at least Tuesday. He was sidelined by an irregular heartbeat.
- Alfonso Soriano,> a top prospect in the Yankees' system at Norwich, is expected to miss a few weeks. He pulled a muscle in his rib area at this week's Double-A All-Star game.
- Williams was drafted by the Yankees in 1987 and played for New York from 1992-96. He hit his first homer against the Yankees in 61 career at-bats.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed