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Pettitte retires first 20, Yankees top Orioles 5-1

After an error ruined Andy Pettitte's bid for perfection, the left-hander's effort to console his dejected teammate was absolutely flawless.
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After an error ruined Andy Pettitte's bid for perfection, the left-hander's effort to console his dejected teammate was absolutely flawless.Pettitte retired his first 20 batters before a lamentable seventh-inning sequence spoiled both his perfect game and no-hit bid, and the New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-1 Monday night.Pettitte (12-6) was poised to finish the seventh without allowing a baserunner, but former Oriole Jerry Hairston Jr. let a two-out grounder by Adam Jones slip through his legs for an error. Hairston was playing in place of Alex Rodriguez, who was given the night off.Nick Markakis followed with an opposite-field single inside the third-base line, drawing further groans from a crowd of 25,063 filled with Yankees fans.Hairston felt terrible, but Pettitte eased his pain by giving him a hug in the clubhouse."He was kind of funny," Hairston said. "He was like, 'You took the pressure off me.' He goes, 'If I haven't thrown a no-hitter by now, then I'm not going to do it.' He was probably the best. He said he didn't want to throw nine innings anyway. That's what type of attitude he has."Major leaguers long ago found out what kind of pitcher Pettitte is, and his performance against the Orioles showed that he's still got plenty of talent."After the fifth inning, I kind of started thinking about it a little bit. It was cool," Pettitte said. "You can't not with the fans; it seemed almost like we were at home, the fans were getting into it so much."It's neat for me to be able to do something like that this late in my career. There's not a whole lot that gets me excited, and I didn't get too, too excited about it yet, because I had a whole lot of outs to get. But it was fun."After Melvin Mora led off the eighth with a home run, Pettitte completed his masterful effort by getting three straight outs.The 37-year-old Pettitte took his dominance of the Orioles to a new level with a vintage pitching gem that enabled him to move into sole possession of third place on the Yankees career wins list. He broke a tie with Lefty Gomez with his 190th victory with New York, a number bested by only Hall of Famers Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231).Pettitte allowed one run and two hits, struck out eight and walked none to improve to 4-0 in his last seven starts. He's 26-6 lifetime against the Orioles, including 16-4 in Baltimore."I think that's the best I've seen Pettitte since I've been up here," said Markakis, in his fourth season with the Orioles. "He was just mixing up his pitches, going in and out, just putting it where he wanted it. I think his ball-to-strike ratio speaks for itself. He was on tonight and he was tough."Pettitte threw 104 pitches, 73 for strikes. It was the first time he went eight innings since July 20, 2008.After retiring his first 15 batters, Pettitte began thinking he just might pull off the perfecto."I went out there feeling like I've had such good stuff before and gone a few innings, two or three. ... It never comes about, ever," he said. "Like I said, after the fifth inning I really felt good, and I was throwing everything for strikes, putting it right where I wanted to. So it's like, hey, it could happen."Then, after Hairston botched the grounder, he sheepishly returned the ball to Pettitte."I didn't look at him. Nobody feels worse than I do. It's kind of tough to swallow," Hairston said. "It's unfortunate. I really wanted him to do it. All of us did. It's just a shame. But what can you do? I just missed it."Brian Bruney gave up a walk and a single in the ninth before Mariano Rivera got two outs for his 37th save _ and career-best 33rd in a row.The only thing resembling a close call against Pettitte over the first six innings came when Matt Wieters topped a slow grounder to third with one out in the sixth. Hairston picked up the ball barehanded, and his off-balance throw got Wieters by a step.Nick Swisher homered and had three hits for the AL East-leading Yankees, who have won four straight and 21 of 27. New York is 10-3 against the Orioles this season.Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie (9-13) allowed two runs and four hits in six innings. The right-hander was good, but on this night he needed to be near perfect to outpitch Pettitte.Guthrie matched Pettitte for two innings, retiring the first six batters before Swisher led off the third with his 22nd homer and fourth against Baltimore. Melky Cabrera followed with a one-out double but did not advance.New York used successive doubles by Robinson Cano and Swisher to make it 2-0 in the fourth.The Yankees pulled away with a three-run eighth that featured an RBI single by Johnny Damon and a two-run double by Cano.NOTES: The Yankees announced ticket prices for potential postseason home games. They range from $5 to $425, and some seats will cost less than they did during the regular season. Season-ticket holders will get the first chance to buy postseason tickets. The date for any public sale hasn't been determined yet. ... Orioles rookie Nolan Reimold's career-high run of reaching base in 17 straight games ended.