Andy Pettitte will have countless games to reminisce about when he finally hangs up his cleats for good.
His final 2010 start against the Rays will surely not be one of them, however.
The forgettable game, played on a hot July day in the Bronx, was nothing but a bad bounce during the Yankees’ 2010 campaign.
Pettitte entered that afternoon with a sparkling 11-2 record and a 2.70 ERA, on track for a career year during his age-38 campaign. Two and one-thirds innings and one pulled groin later, however, the southpaw was forced to the sideline for more than two months.
Pettitte would eventually return to the hill for five starts -- three during the regular season and two in October -- before going home for a while. He claimed retirement but really took a 406-day vacation.
His return to the Majors in 2012, now five starts old, has provided the Bombers with a tremendous boost. Case in point: Tuesday night, when Pettitte took on Tampa Bay for the first time in almost two years before a Yankee Stadium crowd of 40,537.
The 39-year-old veteran pitched as if he were in his prime, prevailing after scattering two hits and two walks over 7 1/3 scintillating frames. Along the way, he struck out 10 -- his highest tally since fanning exactly as many two years ago to the day.
Pettitte, who lifted the red-hot Yanks to their ninth win in 12 games, triumphed for the third time in his past four starts. In doing so, he collected his 243rd career win -- as many as Hall of Famer Juan Marichal -- while also completing a three-game feat for the very first time in his 17-year career.
With his 10 Tuesday strikeouts, Pettitte has now fanned at least eight during three straight home starts.
The above-mentioned nugget may seem random to some, but strikeout rates often serve as a sound predictor of future performance. With 8.07 strikeouts per nine innings this season, Pettitte is fanning opponents at the fastest pace of his pinstriped career (his best rate over a full season with New York came in 2003, when he whiffed 7.78/9 innings).
Speaking of Pettitte’s peripheral statistics, the superb southpaw has so far struck out a career-most 4.57 men for every one he’s walked.
With a win on Wednesday, the Yankees could find themselves back atop the AL East, an extremely competitive division that would indubitably be more treacherous without the services of Pettitte's southpaw arm.