Pettitte valiant, but comes up short

NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte had pitched so well this season -- 8-1 with a 2.46 ERA coming into Thursday night's game -- that he was probably due for a loss. And he got one in the Yankees' 7-1 defeat at the hands of the Phillies.

But he definitely should not take the blame for it.

The veteran left-hander, who turned 38 on Tuesday, gave the Yankees seven gutty innings. He relinquished three runs on six hits, sure. But only two of those runs were earned -- and remember, that's against the dangerous, although slumping, defending National League champs.

"I thought Andy was good," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after the game. "He gave up two earned runs in seven innings. I thought he threw the ball well."

With the Yankees' high-octane offense, that's enough to get a win on most nights. But the Bronx Bombers were stymied for the second straight game. On Wednesday, they mustered just two runs off 47-year-old Jamie Moyer, tacking on another run in the ninth inning against Brad Lidge. On Thursday, they pushed across just one run against Kyle Kendrick & Co.

Pettitte breezed through his first three innings on Thursday, retiring all nine batters he faced. The Phillies scored their unearned run in the fourth. A slow roller toward third base slipped under the glove of the normally slick-fielding Ramiro Pena, allowing Shane Victorino to advance to second. Victorino subsequently scored on a Ryan Howard single.

Then in the fifth, Pettitte made his one big mistake. With one out and a runner on first base, he threw a 2-2 cutter to Victorino that was promptly deposited in the left-field seats.

"It was just a stupid pitch on my part," a downtrodden Pettitte said afterward.

Pettitte used those words at least half a dozen times when speaking with reporters after the game. He mentioned how he wasn't "wholehearted" about the pitch selection he had made, including the fact that he had used a slide step. But mostly Pettitte just kept coming back to that phrase -- "a stupid pitch" -- seeming to take responsibility for the loss.

Meanwhile, the Yankees' bats were practically silent. Their only run came in the sixth inning on an RBI single by -- who else? -- Robinson Cano.

But Pettitte continued to battle to keep his team in the game. In the sixth, he allowed singles to Placido Polanco and Jayson Werth, but struck out the side to keep the Phillies at bay.

And in a long, drawn-out top of the seventh, Pettitte loaded the bases with one out, via a double and two walks (one of them intentional). But he got Polanco to hit into a force-out play at the plate.

Then came the most dramatic moment of the game. With practically the entire crowd on its feet, Pettitte delivered a 1-2 cutter down and away that Ryan Howard chased, and missed. Yankees fans roared, and Pettitte gave a ferocious Joba Chamberlain-like fist pump on his way to the dugout.

Speaking of Chamberlain, he was called upon in the ninth inning to keep the deficit at 3-1 and give the Yankees a chance to come back and tie or win the game in the bottom of the frame. Chamberlain faced three batters -- he gave up a double, a single and a walk. All three base runners subsequently scored.

Chamberlain did not speak to the media after the game.

But Pettitte did. And so did the Yankees' captain, Derek Jeter.

"You'd like to score for [Pettitte]," Jeter said. "He pitched well. He's done what he's done the entire year."

Yes, Pettitte did. Except, for the first time since May 20, he picked up a loss.

Pettitte also picked up another milestone. In his previous start, he became only the third pitcher in history to win 200 games as a Yankee. On Thursday, he passed Ron Guidry for second place on the all-time Yankees strikeout list.

But that was little consolation to him Thursday night.

Did Pettitte really make a stupid pitch to Victorino? Perhaps.

But this much can be said with certainty: It was a valiant effort.

And a loss for which he should not shoulder the blame.

Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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