Zack Cozart reached on a strikeout leading off the game and wound up on second base because of a passed ball and a throwing error.
After that, Andy Pettitte sliced through the Cincinnati Reds' batting order for the rest of the night.
"What was Andy Pettitte doing right? Everything!" Jay Bruce said after Pettitte led the Yankees to a 4-0 victory Friday for his first regular-season win since July 2010.
"You can't say enough about Andy and what he's done in the game," Bruce said. "Even though he might not have quite the stuff that he used to, he tries to pitch smart, never really gets in a pattern and he made his pitches. He was doing exactly what he wanted to do out there tonight, and we could never get anything going."
Provided a one-run lead for much of the night, the 39-year-old left-hander put together a vintage performance in his second start following a one-year layoff. Pettitte pitched four-hit ball over eight shutout innings.
"I felt like I could do this, and now it's just like I feel like the mind's getting back there," a beaming Pettitte said after his 241st win. "I'm just hoping and praying the body holds up."
Making his second major league start since ending his one-year retirement, Pettitte (1-1) limited the young, free-swinging Reds to four hits — all singles. With a fastball that reached 90 mph, an excellent cutter and a sharp curve, he struck out nine and walked one, throwing 78 of 115 pitches for strikes.
"I miss the competition," Pettitte said. "I do — I guess I do miss this, from the standpoint of being around the team and stuff like that."
Pettitte was given a 1-0 lead on Alex Rodriguez's RBI grounder in the fourth. Robinson Cano hit a solo homer off Bronson Arroyo (2-2) in the eighth and Raul Ibanez hit a two-run drive, his eighth homer of the season.
Pettitte had been 0-2 in five starts since winning at Seattle on July 8, 2010 — five days before he pitched in the All-Star game. After missing much of the second half because of a groin strain, he beat Minnesota in Game 2 of the AL division series.
"He must have been doing something real good when he was retired," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He looked as sharp as I've ever seen him."
Cincinnati didn't advance a runner past first base after the first inning.
Boone Logan pitched a perfect ninth, completing the four-hitter as the Yankees stopped a three-game losing streak with their second shutout this season.
New York went ahead when Rodriguez slapped a grounder to shortstop off Arroyo — not the pitcher's glove, as he infamously did near first base in Game 6 of the AL championship series against Boston.
"I don't think about it a whole lot," Arroyo said. "If I would have thumped him with two outs and no one on base tonight, then I'm sure it would have come to mind, because I'm sure he would have let me know. But I'm out there to battle and try to beat guys, and it's always been like that for me. I don't know Alex from a hole in the wall, so I can't say if he thinks about it when I'm pitching. He's done so many things in his career. I'm sure Bronson Arroyo is not the highest thing on the list."
Arroyo escaped a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the sixth, when Arroyo induced Rodriguez and Ibanez to ground into forceouts at the plate and Nick Swisher flied out.
"That was big," Baker said. "I thought that was the turning point in the game, but we just couldn't get consecutive hits like they did in the eighth."
Cano doubled the lead with his fourth homer of the season, a drive deep into the right-field bleachers. Ibanez chased Arroyo after four runs and nine hits in 7 2-3 innings.
Cincinnati, the first team since interleague play started in 1997 to play at the Mets and Yankees on consecutive days, stranded Cozart at third when Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips struck out.
"We had only one run-scoring opportunity in the first inning, and that really was about it," Baker said. "Andy Pettitte, he wasn't throwing as hard as he usually did, but he had an outstanding breaking ball and a cutter and a sinker and changeup. He had everything working tonight. He was tough."
Notes: A day after Donna Summer's death, her rendition of "God Bless America" was played during the seventh-inning stretch. ... New York 1B Mark Teixeira, bothered by a cough since early April, was given the night off. ... New York RHP Ivan Nova (4-1) remains scheduled to start Saturday. If his bruised and sprained right foot gives Nova trouble while warming up, the Yankees would turn to Freddy Garcia. Homer Bailey (1-3) starts for the Reds. ... The Reds were shut out for the first time this year.