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Pettitte knocks their Sox off

NEW YORK -- At about the same time Andy Pettitte was throwing his 102d pitch last night for the Yankees, Roger Clemens was doing the same down the road in a minor league start at Trenton, N.J., for the Double A Thunder.

The old pals will soon be reunited. Then the Yankees will have four of their desired five-man rotation together. If Mike Mussina straightens himself out, it's a very good starting staff.

"He threw that many pitches? Boy, I hope he had a good outing," said Pettitte of Clemens.

But last night, Pettitte was what he was hired to be -- a pitcher who can beat the Red Sox (8-3), and prevail after a loss. He left the Yankees with a little more pep in their step as they departed Yankee Stadium for an offday before the Angels come to town tomorrow.

"It was a good game where we were able to score some runs early and I was able to get comfortable out here and it felt good," said Pettitte, who snapped a personal two-game losing streak and improved to 14-6 in 24 career starts against Boston. His 83 wins at Yankee Stadium are the most by an active pitcher at any ballpark, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"It was a good win for us because we won the series," added Pettitte. "We hadn't been winning series, and that's what we needed to concentrate on. We just couldn't get caught up in winning 15 in a row and we just have to continue to win series and try to get to .500. We have to take baby steps and not be overwhelmed by anything.

"We're getting our staff together and we have a good team here. The Red Sox are a great team, so to think we're going to be able to make all of this up at once isn't realistic. The way I approached it -- and I told some of the guys in here before we started this -- that the worst-case scenario was we got swept. But even if we had been, it's still early in the season. There's no way it would have been over."

Having said that, Pettitte admitted, "We knew how important this series was and how we needed to take at least two of the games." In Pettitte's worst-case scenario, the Yankees would have exited the series 13 1/2 games back. But now they're 9 1/2 back.

"We just have to chip away," said Pettitte, who allowed nine hits and one run over seven innings. "We can't expect to sweep these guys in the nine games we have left against them. They're too good for that. We really respect that team and that lineup. When you can beat them two out of three, you're accomplishing something. I think we should feel a sense of accomplishment."

While Pettitte is 3-3 with a 2.66 ERA, teammates believe he should have at least six wins based on how he's pitched. The Yankees have scored 53 runs in his 10 starts, and only once -- April 27 against the Red Sox -- has he given up more than three earned runs.

"They got some swinging bunts out there and I was lucky enough to get out of it by making some good pitches," Pettitte said. "I could have made some mistakes with a couple of those and it might have magnified a little bit. I was happy to get through the game. We've been playing hard . . . that's what has been so frustrating. It's not that there's been any holding our head down or any giving up. We haven't been able to put it together. That's why this feels so good. We put it together."

Pettitte said he had a good feel for his cutter, a pitch he believes will help him as the weather gets warmer.

Manager Joe Torre feels as if he's gone back in time with Pettitte. Pettitte's three seasons with the Astros haven't changed Torre's impression of him.

"He might not throw as hard as he used to, but he can pitch," Torre said. "He has a great understanding and feel of the game and what it takes to pitch in this league."

And how to beat the Red Sox.