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NYY@TOR: Pettitte shuts down Toronto in return start

TORONTO -- At the age of 40, pitchers are supposed to begin showing signs of age, if they are even lucky enough to still be playing in the Major Leagues.

Lefty Andy Pettitte, however, has yet to receive that memo.

Pettitte didn't need much help, but he got plenty in New York's 9-4 series-opening win over the Blue Jays in front of 40,028 at Rogers Centre on Friday.

"Andy's remarkable," said Vernon Wells, who hit one of three Yankees home runs. "I have had a chance to see him for a long time, and he's the same guy that he was 10, 12 years ago. It's fun to watch, and it's a pleasure to watch an individual that has been around this long and still continues to have success."

Pettitte, pitching for the first time in 10 days after missing a start with back spasms, did not miss a beat.

His back was tested early with a pair of comebackers, and he showed no signs of pain. Manager Joe Girardi admitted he was a little worried when Pettitte was forced to make some plays in the field, but they reaffirmed for both of them that the southpaw can start putting the back issue in the rear-view mirror.

Pettitte carved up the Blue Jays to improve to 3-0 on the season, tossing 7 1/3 strong innings of three-run ball. After shaking off a leadoff triple and first-inning run, Pettitte was dominant until Jose Bautista hit a two-run homer off him in the sixth.

The 18-year veteran retired eight consecutive batters at one point -- starting in the second inning, including four straight on strikeouts -- and earned his 23rd career victory against Toronto. Baltimore is the only team against which he has recorded more wins throughout his career, while Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens are the only pitchers who have beaten the Blue Jays more times.

Pettitte allowed three runs on six hits, while walking one and striking out five. His ERA sits at 2.01 after three starts, and it is the third time in his career he has started a season 3-0.

"I knew I was going to be strong," Pettitte said. "I feel good, there is no doubt. I feel good with all my pitches. My side sessions have all been good, and I feel like I have been able to get us deep into games."

That's because he has. Pettitte has lasted at least seven innings in each of his three starts and has done it efficiently, throwing fewer than 100 pitches in all of them.

It's not as if he's simply enjoying a hot start to the season, as Pettitte was fantastic in an abbreviated 2012 campaign, as well. He made just 12 starts, posting a 2.87 ERA over 75 1/3 innings after starting the season late and then missing over two months with a broken ankle.

Nothing appears to be able to stop him.

"You fall too far behind the guys like Pettitte, the good pitchers, they don't make enough mistakes where you can get back at them," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "At his age, it's special what he's still doing."

Girardi lifted Pettitte, who said he was a little surprised by the move, after 90 pitches because he didn't want to push him too much and wanted to get reliever Shawn Kelley some work.

"Very pleased," Girardi said about Pettitte's outing. "I think he was so excited to get out there, he hadn't been out there in a while."

New York's bats ensured Pettitte would not have trouble putting away the Blue Jays.

The Yankees scored two runs in the first and broke things open in a three-run third inning, which saw Travis Hafner hit a solo shot for his fifth homer of the season.

A pair of former Blue Jays then joined the fun, starting with Lyle Overbay, who hit a solo homer to center field in the sixth inning to make it a 6-1 game. Catcher Francisco Cervelli followed up with a ground-rule double to right that chased Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow.

Morrow lasted 5 1/3 innings, surrendering seven runs -- five earned -- on nine hits and saw his ERA balloon to 5.57.

Wells, who broke into the big leagues with the Blue Jays and played in Toronto for 12 years, got some revenge against a stadium full of fans who were booing him by adding a solo homer of his own in the seventh, his fourth of the year, off reliever Brett Cecil to put New York in front, 9-3.

"They have a really good time out there in left field," Wells said about a specific section of fans heckling him. "Very consistent, I'll give them that. When you come in here and win ballgames, they can yell at me all they want."

The nine runs the Yankees scored are the club's most since April 9 against Cleveland, which was Pettitte's last start before Friday's victory.

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