ARLINGTON, Texas -- Andy Pettitte pitched his best game in more than a month Wednesday night, working into the seventh inning and allowing just two runs. He also leapfrogged Sandy Koufax on baseball's all-time strikeout list when he fanned Geovany Soto in the second inning.
After a shaky first inning, Pettitte seemed to be more in command of a game than he has been since June 8, when he held the Seattle Mariners to one run on three hits in 7 1/3 innings.
Still, for the fifth time in his last seven decisions, Pettitte came away with a loss, thanks in large part to the feeble Yankees offense, which after "exploding" for five runs and three extra-base hits Tuesday night, returned to its usual form on Wednesday, managing just six singles and no earned runs in going down to a 3-1 defeat to the Texas Rangers.
To Pettitte, the end nullified the means, and he refused to consider his performance as something to be encouraged about for the remainder of his season.
"I can’t take nothing from it," Pettitte said in the virtually-deserted Yankees clubhouse. "When you lose you can’t take nothing from it. It’s a loss. We need wins. And it’s frustrating."
Indeed, especially since the Yankees had left the ballpark Tuesday night pumped up off the heady air of a come-from-behind victory, in which Brent Lillibridge's ninth-inning single drove in the winning run off Texas closer Joe Nathan. But instead of a carryover effect, the Yankees played as if they were suffering a hangover on Wednesday.
They started out well, with first-inning singles from Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, and got the runners to second and third on stolen bases. But Robinson Cano struck out, Lyle Overbay struck out and Vernon Wells grounded out to end the Yankees' only real threat of the night.
"We have to take advantage of situations when we have runners on, because this is not an offense that explodes for big innings," manager Joe Girardi said. "We have to take advantage every time. You get first and second, nobody out, first and third, one out, we're not able to capitalize."
Pettitte allowed a first-inning run on three singles but then settled down to quiet the Texas lineup for the next 4 2/3 innings, until A.J. Pierzynski went down to his shoe tops to scoop a slider into the right-field seats to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
Pettitte beat himself up for that one, too, especially since Pierzynski, who also drove in the first run of the game, is a left-handed hitter.
"It hurts, it hurts to let a left-hander beat you there," Pettitte said. "I was trying to throw a cutter, bounce it in front of the plate; I thought it was down, I don’t know if it would have bounced or not, but he got the barrel on it and put it in the air."
Pettitte left after the first two batters he faced in the seventh, Soto and Craig Gentry, walked and singled, but Shawn Kelley pitched his way out of the jam. The Rangers completed their scoring in the eighth when pinch hitter David Murphy crushed a Kelley slider about 425 feet into the right-center field seats.
Asked if felt he had "turned a corner" Wednesday after pitching poorly for much of June and July, Pettitte said, "The sad thing is I feel the exact same way I did before. It’s just that everything I did before was wrong, before the break. I don’t take much from it unless we get a 'W,' to tell you the truth. Seriously. If I go out and give up four, and we win, I’m good. But obviously, we need wins right now, and it’s another tough loss."
And there's nothing good about that.