TRENTON, N.J. -- Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte admitted his Major League rehabilitation start for the Double-A Trenton Thunder in an Eastern League divisional playoff game Thursday night made him think a bit.
"I realize this start was important to me and I certainly needed the work," the 38-year-old veteran said. "I also knew it was a playoff game for the Thunder and I didn't want to lose the game for them.
"Naturally, since Trenton is one of our farm teams, I hope they win the Eastern League championship. Winning a championship here is a great thing for the guys to carry over when they get to higher levels.
"I'm glad I pitched well."
His four two-hit innings helped the Thunder, which took a 2-0 series lead over the Fisher Cats with a 1-0 victory on catcher Rene Rivera's 12th-inning home run to center field. The game draw a playoff-record crowd of 8,072 to Mercer County Waterfront Park.
The Fisher Cats will host Game 3 at Merchantsauto.com Stadium on Friday, aiming to avoid elimination.
Pettitte, sidelined since July 18 with what has been diagnosed with a "small persistent tear" in his left groin, tossed four scoreless innings -- throwing 51 pitches (37 for strikes) and striking out four. He then threw 14 more in the bullpen.
"The plan was for 65 pitches," he said. "So I finished in the bullpen. I feel real good, but I know I'll have to deal with some soreness tomorrow. I felt a little short in the first inning, but I got more and more comfortable.
"I really felt the best, and I stepped it up a lot in the fourth inning. I was just glad to get some work, because I have had no work at all. It's not fun when you're not contributing to your team. "
While Pettitte, who was 11-2 with a 2.88 ERA in 18 starts with the Yankees, felt his effort was "a definite step forward," he still knows he is not quite ready for a return to the Bronx.
Though satisfied with his overall command, mechanics and ability to pitch in sequence, neither his stamina nor his changeup are where he wants them to be.
"With the setbacks I've had with this, I'm doing almost no work with my legs," he said. "If I pitched for the Yankees next week, I might be able to give them four or five innings.
"As far as my changeup, I pulled a few of them, one of which was a wild pitch. It's been the toughest pitch for me to come back with. I'll need it to get Major League hitters out."
Pettitte, who flew back to Texas on Thursday night to rejoin the team, credited Trenton catcher Austin Romine with a big assist. He feels the Yankees will ask the lefty to make one more rehabilitation start, probably Tuesday.
"I worked with Austin a lot in Spring Training," said Pettitte. "He was familiar with my pitches and knew the New Hampshire hitters, what they like and what they don't like."
Romine was simply happy to work with Pettitte.
"He's easy to call a game with," said Romine. "If there was anything special he wanted to work on, I was there for him. That was some of the best stuff I've ever seen. Nothing was straight."
Both New Hampshire's Zach Stewart and Trenton's Adam Warren were spectacular. Each struck out 10, with Stewart pitching seven innings and Warren six. "That's playoff baseball," said Trenton manager Tony Franklin. "You won't see many runs scored in games like this."
Rivera played with the Seattle Mariners from 2004-'06, batting .227 (34-for-150) in 53 games. He was signed by the Yankees on May 21 and batted .319 (30-for-94) with five home runs in 25 games. With Romine serving as the everyday catcher, Rivera has found his niche as the Thunder's designated hitter. "I just want to get into the game and contribute," the 27-year-old said.
In other Eastern League action:
Altoona Curve 6, Harrisburg Senators 4
Andrew Lambo doubled twice and had three RBIs and former 10th-round pick Derek Hankins allowed one run over 3 1/3 innings of relief for the win as Altoona evened up its series with Harrisburg. Starter Jeff Locke held the Senators to three runs -- one earned -- on four hits over 4 2/3 innings before former first-round pick Daniel Moskos pitched the ninth for the save. Box score