The good news was Andy Pettitte was on the mound and made it through without injury. The other positive news was Mark Teixeira found his swing for at least one at-bat by hitting a grand slam.
Neither was enough on its own to get the Yankees a win but some bizarre happenings in the bottom of the sixth inning meant the Yankees opened a three-game series with the Indians with a 7-4 victory Monday night.
Pettitte returned after missing two weeks with an upper back injury and allowed four runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. He had a 4-1 lead entering the fifth and seemed in line for his 250th career win but gave up three runs in the inning and lost his chance at that milestone when Carlos Santana scorched a double into left field which deflected off the glove of third baseman David Adams and tied the game.
After going 1-for-9 in his first three games back from a wrist injury, Teixeira crushed a first-pitch sinker into the right-field seats for a 4-1 lead against Justin Masterson in the third inning.
The ball landed in the hat of a fan sitting in the front row and marked Teixeira’s first home run since Oct. 1 against Boston. He had four home runs in his 92 at-bats after Aug. 1 last year due to injuries and hitting his first home run after missing three months seemed to put an emotional charge into the switch-hitter.
“You just hope that it sneaks over the wall,” said Teixeira, who pumped his fist rounding first base. “I can’t hit it much better, but it didn’t get up in the air.”
“I think it’s going to take Tex some time to catch up in a sense,” Joe Girardi said. “These guys have all been playing two months and he’s been playing three or four days. I think his at-bats have been good and Tex is an RBI machine and we need that.”
The home run also seemed to spark an offense that had not scored more than four runs in nine straight games, including one in the final two games against the Red Sox combined. The offense also had hit .219 since a 6-4 win in Baltimore on May 20.
“You want to get into a rhythm. I’ve kind of said it a few times, the rhythm of just ... seeing pitches, knowing that you can let it go, you can drive the ball and you can play every day,” Teixeira said. “This is my sixth game in a row, which is a good sign for the wrist and the rest of the body.”
“The injury he had was probably a little bit scary and to be out there playing after having to sit down for two months, you could tell how excited he was,” Girardi said.
Masterson settled down a bit but with two outs things became a bit strange and eventually beneficial for the Yankees. He seemed to get the third out against Austin Romine but instead the ball deflected off his back for an infield single.
If that was not odd enough, Romine easily swiped second and then scored on Brett Gardner’s two-out single up the middle on a 0-2 slider. Gardner took second on the relay throw home and made it to third on a throwing error by Masterson on a pickoff play.
“Hopefully that gets us going,” Hafner said. “We have a bunch of good hitters in here and just kind of a down week for us. A game like today, hopefully we can get us swinging the bats well and turning the corner.”
Travis Hafner’s best swing in two weeks gave the Yankees an insurance home run. It was his second hit in 23 at-bats.
Pettitte’s return lasted 83 pitches but the best pitches thrown by the Yankees may have come from the right arm of Shawn Kelley. Kelley struck out two in 1 1/3 innings while also working out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth thanks to Lyle Overbay’s first career putout as a right fielder.
While disappointed in the final line of his 500th career start, Pettitte was pleased with the eventual result for the team.
“I felt good,” Pettitte said. “First of all, it was just a good win for us obviously. It’s so good about the team winning and putting some runs up on the board. As far as me personally, it’s frustrating because we finally get some runs on the board and you give the lead back. You’re never going to be real happy about that but I was very thankful and you could smile a little bit about it when you get the 'W.'”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.