The Yankees never seemed to doubt that Pettitte would be able to help them win this year, but few would have anticipated that Pettitte could enjoy a performance like this so quickly.
Pitching on a clear, cool night, Pettitte permitted just four singles to the Cincinnati lineup, striking out nine and walking one in a 115-pitch masterpiece to earn his first victory since July 8, 2010 against the Mariners.
"Nobody wants to be out there more than he does right now," said Yankees catcher Chris Stewart. "He had a pretty long break to think about it; all these emotions are going through his head. To go out there and do what he did tonight is outstanding."
The Yankees scored the only run they would need to topple Bronson Arroyo in the fourth inning, as Curtis Granderson singled and scored on an Alex Rodriguez groundout.
Robinson Cano added breathing room with an eighth-inning moonshot into the right-field bleachers off a hanging Arroyo curveball. Raul Ibanez blasted a two-run shot, his eighth, for the final margin.
"It was definitely a boost. Cano's home run was definitely big," Ibanez said. "And being able to put a couple more up there was huge. But Andy did a great job, and it was nice to be able to go into the ninth with a four-run lead."
Boone Logan recorded the final three outs in a non-save situation to preserve the victory for the 39-year-old Pettitte, who seemed determined to make any sort of support hold up.
Harnessing his cutter, curveball and four-seamer expertly, Pettitte cruised through the Reds' lineup in a fashion that made it easy to imagine he never left the Yankees at all after the 2010 season.
"I was able to throw everything that I wanted tonight, both sides of the plate," Pettitte said. "It makes it a lot easier when you're able to do that. You don't really have to make a whole lot of adjustments. I was able to really feel like I was able to do whatever I wanted out there tonight."
Pettitte acknowledged that his nerves were calmer than last weekend, when he shook off the rust to make his season debut after a long journey back to the Majors.
"I just feel like I might not have been as relaxed as you need to be when you're trying to make pitches," Pettitte said. "It was good to get in a good rhythm and feel good with all my stuff and give us a good start."
Pettitte had to pitch out of trouble at the beginning, as Zack Cozart reached second on a strikeout after a Stewart passed ball and throwing error, and he advanced to third on a sacrifice. Pettitte responded by striking out both Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips to escape.
"You never want to start out the game like that," Stewart said. "He bailed me out, luckily. Three big at-bats, he was able to put the guys away; pick me up. The rest was just great out there."
No other runner advanced as far as second base against Pettitte, who convinced manager Joe Girardi to send him back out for a perfect eighth inning. Assisted by A-Rod's diving stab of a Drew Stubbs grounder, the outing marked Pettitte's longest scoreless outing since July 8, 2008 against Tampa Bay.
"It was just kind of the way he looked, and I talked to him," Girardi said. "I looked him in the eyes."
Arroyo nearly matched Pettitte every step of the way before coming undone in the eighth inning. He pulled off a high-wire escape act in the sixth inning to leave the bases loaded as the Yankees continue to struggle with runners in scoring position -- now just 3-for-48 in their last six games.
New York loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, and Rodriguez chopped a ball to third base that Todd Frazier bobbled before firing home. The throw beat Derek Jeter trying to score, but replays showed that catcher Ryan Hanigan's foot missed home plate and he should have been ruled safe.
Instead, Ibanez grounded into another fielder's choice and Nick Swisher popped up as the Yankees were turned aside, continuing a run of futility that has plagued them since the end of New York's last homestand.
But on a night when Pettitte said that he feels his mental strength has returned, one run was to be enough.
"I feel like I can do this," Pettitte said. "I took a long time to come to this decision, to come back. I waited until I threw my bullpens and felt like I could do this. I feel the mind is getting back there, and for me, I'm just hoping and praying the body holds up."