Andy Pettitte is among the people surprised by how well Andy Pettitte is pitching

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Andy Pettitte struck out 10 batters in shutting out the Rays for 7.1 innings last night, improving his ERA to 2.78 in five starts since coming out of retirement.

And afterward the Yankees left-hander admitted to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that even he’s surprised by how well he’s pitching at age 39:

The feel for all my pitches has just gotten better, I feel like. I feel like as long as I can stay healthy and you carry somewhat of a velocity on your fastball to keep hitters honest, if I can keep moving the ball around and keep the feel of my pitches, I feel like I’m going to be how I was when I left. I’ve said it, you don’t really know what to expect coming back, but I’m obviously pleasantly surprised so far that I’ve been like I’ve been.

Pettitte’s average fastball has lost some zip, going from 89 miles per hour before retirement to 87 miles per hour now, but his secondary numbers show that his first sub-3.00 ERA since 2005 isn’t merely a fluke. He’s inducing more ground balls than ever before and has a 32/7 K/BB ratio in 36 innings for his best strikeout rate since 2004 and the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his 17-year career.

Kris Bryant on Joey Votto: “He’s the best player ever … He’s a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

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The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”

Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”

Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.

Video: Daniel Descalso hits D-Backs’ third inside-the-park homer of the season

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Diamondbacks second baseman Daniel Descalso hit his team’s third inside-the-park home run of the season during Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Astros. In the top of the fourth inning, with the score 1-0 and the bases empty, Descalso ripped a 1-0, 83 MPH change-up to right-center field. The ball caromed off the wall, heading towards left field, which sent center Jake Marisnick on the chase. Marisnick tried to pick up the ball with his glove, but dropped it, which sealed Descalso’s destiny for an inside-the-parker.

It had only been five days since the Diamondbacks’ last inside-the-park home run. David Peralta hit one against the Cubs on August 12. Ketel Marte legged out his club’s first ITPHR on July 26 against the Braves.

As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the Diamondbacks have three as a team, which is amazing because the other 29 teams have hit seven combined.