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TB@NYY: Pettitte hurls 7 1/3 scoreless frames

Phil Hughes isn't asking Andy Pettitte to stay out of retirement for the shelf life of his own career, but he would like the 39-year-old to stick around for the near future.

On Tuesday, Pettitte cheated father time again, dialing back to his glory years in New York for a two-hit shutout against the Rays. The outing was the first time Pettitte reached double-digit strikeouts in exactly two years. He'll try and continue his recent string of success on Sunday when he'll wrap up Part 1 of the Subway Series against the Mets.

"You can no doubt feel the electricity in here, because the fans are so excited and fired up about it," Pettitte said about the Subway Series. "For us, it's kind of old hat because we play them every year, but we know the city and the fans love it."

The left-hander is 8-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 19 career games against the Mets. He was a member of the Yankees when Interleague Play first started in 1997.

Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher said recently he's noticed the team's starters are beginning to compete with one another on a nightly basis. Pettitte has been at the forefront of that competition, compiling a 2.73 ERA in his five starts since returning to the team on May 13. Yankees starters are 13-10, and the team holds a 3.73 ERA, during Pettitte's run with the team this season.

"It looks like since Andy came back, it has given us a boost," Andruw Jones said. "Everyone is just trying to follow him up."

Sunday will be Pettitte's turn to follow up a successful start, after Hughes guided the Yankees to a 4-2 win on Saturday. No matter what happens in the final game of the series, the Empire State Building will shine blue and white on Sunday night, as the Yankees have taken the first two games of the series behind the arms of Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda.

"Andy is huge for our pitching staff. He brings a wealth of knowledge, a lot of experience," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "He's just a great guy. You want to be around Andy and get to learn from him. When he came back, everyone was just happy to see him, first of all, and what he does on the field and in the clubhouse is just great."

The Mets will send starter Jonathon Niese to the mound on an extra two days of rest after the southpaw left his last start with an irregular heartbeat. Manager Terry Collins said he wanted to assure the problem was quelled before sending Niese into his next start.

Collins gave Johan Santana an extra two days of rest before his start on Friday to make sure he was at full strength after throwing the first no-hitter of his career. The rest proved to be detrimental, however, as the Yankees pounced on Santana for six runs in five innings. After the game, Collins pointed to the extra two days as the reason for his ace's struggles, claiming the break from action threw Santana off of his rhythm.

"Jon is a little different," Collins said. "We wanted to make sure that the heart thing is quieted down. We wanted to get him some extra days to rest that up, but he's fine. He's actually thrown twice between starts, so I think he'll be OK."

Before Collins removed Niese from his last outing, he was enjoying one of his best starts of the season. He pitched six scoreless innings against the Cardinals, striking out a season-high 10 hitters. Niese allowed three runs in six innings in the only start of his career against the Yankees.

The Yankees now hold a 50-36 all-time lead against the Mets during the regular season.

Gardner out until after All-Star break
Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner suffered a setback in a rehab game on Friday and won't return to the team until after the All-Star break. Doctors will examine Gardner's injured right elbow on Monday.

Manager Joe Girardi said Gardner aggravated the injury while swinging in the game, and he's concerned about the severity of the setback.

"It seems to get to a point where he can do everything that he needs to do," Girardi said. "But then when he plays in a game, maybe it's the intensity of the game turned up a bit, he's swinging and missing, and it seems to bother him."

Girardi isn't concerned with how much he's had to rely on 40-year-old Raul Ibanez to play the field since Gardner suffered the injury on April 17. Ibanez was signed to be the Yankees' designated hitter, but Girardi has been forced to use him as an everyday outfielder. Girardi has tried to give him some built-in days off against left-handed pitchers.

Collins will continue with setup man-by-committee
Collins isn't ready to name an official eighth-inning setup man yet. He's used left-handed specialist Tim Byrdak and right-handed pitchers Bobby Parnell and Jon Rauch in that role at different times this season.

Collins will continue to use a committee and will judge each situation differently. Rauch is returning from nagging elbow discomfort that was caused by debris in his throwing elbow. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning on Friday, and did not appear in Saturday's game.

Collins said he was impressed with the way Parnell threw in the Mets' previous series against the Nationals.

Worth noting
• Over their last eight starts, Yankees starters are 6-1 with a 1.84 ERA.

• Omar Quintanilla hit his first home run of the season for the Mets on Saturday night, while David Wright hit his third in the last eight games. Comments