Andy Pettitte had not even thrown a pitch when the standing ovation began. The one thing that could halt it was the introduction of starting lineups on the scoreboard, but as soon as he released his first fastball of the afternoon, the crowd was ready to repeatedly chant his name.
On the minds of Yankee fans everywhere were the same things Pettitte might have been wondering: how would he perform? What would his stuff look like after being away from the major leagues for a year and a half? And how long would he pitch?
Pettitte wound up with a loss in his highly-anticipated return as he allowed four runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings in Sunday’s 6-2 loss to the Mariners.
Leading into this start, the Yankees were hoping at the minimum Pettitte would provide six innings and that a majority of his fastballs would be clocked in the high 80s. Pettitte met those expectations, but he had moments of vulnerability.
The sharpness was on display during the first 3 2/3 innings when Pettitte got eight outs on the ground. He then walked Jesus Montero on a full count though at that point Pettitte had not allowed a hit.
That changed when Pettitte hung a 0-2 slider over the middle of the plate to Justin Smoak. Smoak drove the pitch the opposite way and sent it over the left field wall.
Pettitte made it through the fifth, though he forgot to cover first base on Michael Saunders’s bunt base hit. But it was the sixth that turned into a struggle, only saved by a nice double play turned by Mark Teixeira. Before that, Pettitte gave up five hits by allowing a two-run home run to Casper Wells, that clanged off the foul pole, and three straight singles.
His return ended after 94 pitches. As manager Joe Girardi headed to the mound, Pettitte ran to the dugout and as he approached his waiting teammates, he doffed his cap to acknowledge the standing ovation.
Pettitte was opposing Kevin Millwood, who held the Yankees to one run and three hits in seven innings. The Yankees scored their lone run on a bases-loaded double play and Millwood snuffed out threats by getting Derek Jeter on a double play to end the fifth and Alex Rodriguez on one in the sixth.
The Yankees loaded the bases against four Seattle relievers in the eighth, but wound up with just one run as Teixeira struck out with the bases loaded.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.