- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 1, 2009

BALTIMORE | After an error ruined Andy Pettitte’s bid for perfection, the left-hander’s effort to console his dejected teammate was absolutely flawless.

Pettitte retired his first 20 batters before a lamentable seventh-inning sequence spoiled both his perfect game and no-hit bid, and the New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-1 on Monday night.

Pettitte (12-6) was poised to finish the seventh without allowing a baserunner, but former Orioles player Jerry Hairston Jr. let a two-out grounder by Adam Jones slip through his legs for an error. Hairston was playing in place of Alex Rodriguez, who got the night off.

Nick Markakis followed with an opposite-field single inside the third-base line, drawing further groans from a crowd of 25,063 filled with Yankees fans.

Hairston felt terrible, but Pettitte eased his pain by giving him a hug in the clubhouse.

“He was kind of funny,” Hairston said. “He was like, ‘You took the pressure off me.’ He goes, ‘If I haven’t thrown a no-hitter by now, then I’m not going to do it.’ He was probably the best. He said he didn’t want to throw nine innings anyway. That’s what type of attitude he has.”

Major leaguers long ago found out what kind of pitcher Pettitte is, and his performance against the Orioles showed that he’s still got plenty of talent.

“After the fifth inning, I kind of started thinking about it a little bit. It was cool,” Pettitte said. “It seemed almost like we were at home, the fans were getting into it so much.

“It’s neat for me to be able to do something like that this late in my career. There’s not a whole lot that gets me excited, and I didn’t get too, too excited about it yet, because I had a whole lot of outs to get. But it was fun.”

After Melvin Mora led off the eighth with a home run, Pettitte completed his masterful effort by getting three straight outs.

The 37-year-old Pettitte took his dominance of the Orioles to a new level with a vintage pitching gem that enabled him to move into sole possession of third place on the Yankees’ career wins list. He broke a tie with Lefty Gomez with his 190th victory with New York, a number bested by only Hall of Famers Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231).

Pettitte allowed one run and two hits, struck out eight and walked none to improve to 4-0 in his last seven starts. He’s 26-6 lifetime against the Orioles, including 16-4 in Baltimore.

“I think that’s the best I’ve seen Pettitte since I’ve been up here,” said Markakis, who’s in his fourth season with the Orioles. “He was just mixing up his pitches, going in and out, just putting it where he wanted it. … He was on tonight, and he was tough.”

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