Andy Pettitte was still pitching at a high level the last time we saw him, so is there any reason to think he’ll be anything less?

I set out to prove that Andy Pettitte was lousy when he walked off the mound for the last time in 2010, and so why is there any reason to think he’ll still be able to perform at a high level at 39. There is some truth to this theory. For one thing, Andy would be the first to tell you his body had broken down late in the 2010 season and that he pretty much figured he was at the end of the line. He’d won 240 times in the regular season and been an important part of five championship teams. He’d made 521 starts, including 42 in the postseason and pitched more than 3,000 innings. In short, he’d had a great career.

Andy has talked so much about how badly he felt at the end of 2010 that I assumed he’d stunk up the joint. It’s true he hadn’t been very good down the stretch, winning just two of his final seven starts with a 5.45 ERA. But Pettitte has had plenty of stretches in the regular season when he was nothing special. His legacy will always be that he was at his best when the games meant the most. That was true in 2010 as well when he pitched twice in the postseason and went seven innings and allowed two runs each time. He won one of those games, 5-2, and lost the other 8-0. But both times he gave the Yankees a chance to win.

About the only thing causing doubt is that he’s 39 years old, and there will be a time when his body can’t respond. But I’m guessing Andy will know when that time is, and that there’s no way he’d make today’s start if he thought he couldn’t win. He has always had the ability to assess his pitches, performance, etc. He returns at a time when the Yankees are thrilled at the way Phil Hughes is performing, and even though there are questions about how the back of the bullpen will shakedown, they probably are the favorites to win the American League East for the 12th time in 15 years.

Elsewhere…

Justin Verlander has pitched at least six innings in 49 straight starts. That’s the longest streak of six-plus innings since Mark Buehrle did it 49 straight times in 2004-2005 for the White Sox. Steve Carlton was the last MLB pitcher with a longer streak, going six-plus 69 straight times between 1979 and 1982. Verlander’s is the longest for a Tiger since at least 1918…

James Shields has gone at least eight in 18 of his last 37 starts…

Cardinals went 9-3 and averaged 5.8 runs while Lance Berkman was healthy. They went 11-10 and averaged 5.4 runs per game while he was on DL…

The Rays, who had the fewest errors in MLB last season (73), have the fifth-most this season (28). They have twice as many as this point in 2011…

The five AL East clubs have combined for 228 HR. That’s 54 more than the next closest division, the six-team NL Central (174)…

Nationals starters have 17 quality starts in their last 19 turns and lead MLB with 26…

Vinnie Pestano has had at least one strikeout in 18 straight relief appearances. The Indians believe that has been their second-longest such streak since 1918. Paul Shuey had a strikeout in 21 straight appearances in 1999-2000.

The Red Sox are 7 1/2 games out of first place, their biggest deficit this late in the calendar year since 1997.

Daniel Bard has two strikeouts in his last 12 1/3 innings after getting 19 in his first 18 2/3 innings this season.  He has a 3.24 ERA in the first five innings of his starts versus a 12.00 ERA in the sixth inning and later.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has used 23 different lineup combinations in 33 games, including 15 in the first 17 games. His most commonly used lineup (eight times): Bourn, Prado, Freeman, Mc- Cann, Uggla, Jones, Heyward, Pastornicky. That lineup is 7-1…

Twins reliever Jared Burton hasn’t allowed a run in 11 consecutive appearances, covering 11.1 innings. Opposing hitters are 0 for their last 34 with two walks and 12 strikeouts. For the season, he has held opponents to a .073 batting average, second-lowest among AL qualifiers, behind only Ryan Cook of the A’s (.060)…

The Padres are the first NL club to beat Roy Halladay twice in a season. Halladay hadn’t been beaten by one team twice in a season since the Red Sox (twice) and Rays (four times) did it in 2009…

Giants rotation has allowed three runs or less in 20 of last 23 games. It has given up three home runs in last 14 games and just 20 for the season, third-lowest in MLB. Eight of the 20 home runs have come in five games at Chase Field…

Giants lead the majors with 37 errors and are on a pace to commit 181, which would be the third-most since the franchise moved west…

Five days until the Silver Boot…

Happy 62nd, Bobby V.

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