The last time I attended a game at Yankee Stadium (July 5), I sat in something called the Alcohol-Free seats.  An unfortunate misunderstanding, as I was led to believe by the guy who sold me the ticket this would mean free drinks.  But there’s no confusion for Newsday’s Wallace Matthews, as there’s no such thing as cynicism-free seating in Yankee Stadium or anywhere else in America.

On the mound, you have Pettitte, admitted HGH user in the Mitchell Report, throwing eight strong innings in weather that would fry a cactus, and at the plate, you have Giambi (above), who couldn’t hit his listed weight until Memorial Day weekend, blasting a fastball into the rightfield seats against a pitcher with the lowest ERA in major-league baseball, a pitcher who had allowed a measly six home runs all season long.

You want to believe they are doing it the way it is supposed to be done, both by law and by the code of sportsmanship. They are both good guys, one, Giambi, with a relentless desire to ingratiate himself and the other, Pettitte, with an apparent inability to be anything other than polite and cooperative, even under the most taxing of circumstances.

(The day after being grilled on his HGH use by the media, Pettitte went out of his way to thank me for asking, at a nationally televised news conference, if he now considered himself a cheater. “I really wanted the opportunity to answer that question,” he said, and he meant it.)

But then you look at Pettitte, throwing as hard in the eighth inning as he did in the first, striking out two of the three batters he faced, and you scratch your head in confusion. You see Giambi, looking as muscular and fit as he ever did, and you shake your head in disbelief.

If these two guys can perform at this level, at this age — Giambi is 37, Pettitte 36 — without, presumably, the help of performance-enhancing drugs, then why did they bother using them in the first place?

If both of them are to be believed — and there is no evidence at the moment to doubt them — then clearly, Pettitte is capable of throwing eight overpowering innings and Giambi is capable of looking like Mr. Olympia without the help of a chemist.

Or are they?

Purely on the basis of writing a uncharacteristic piece that took zero cheap shots at the New York Mets, I hereby nominate Matthews as the American League Comeback Columnist Of The Week.