A formula for the New York Yankees in 2011 is to get six innings out of their starter, get a few runs, hit the long ball and go to the bullpen. Manager Joe Girardi saw that work to perfection Thursday afternoon in the Bronx and the Yankees won their season and home opener over the Detroit Tigers 6-3
It was a day more suitable for football with the game time temperature at 42 degrees, a chilly wind, and threatening clouds with rain and snow in the forecast By the sixth inning, when the Yankees took the lead, after Curtis Granderson hit his third straight season opening home run, many of the 48,226 in the sold out crowd left for the exits.
Perhaps if the weather was more applicable for baseball, the fans would have stayed as the combination of Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera shut the Tigers down in the last three innings. Sabathia could not put the Detroit batters away but his six innings were enough before Girardi went to the pen.
“There were no questions,” said Girardi about going to the pen for the final three innings. Chamberlain would get the win pitching the seventh, Soriano got the Tigers in the eighth and Rivera, in his 17th year as a Yankee got a club record third save as a Yankee on opening day.
Sabathia did his part and overall it was a good opening day outing. “I made some pitches in tough spots and overall tried to minimize the damage,” he said. The pen took over after he gave up two earned runs in six innings. “He relishes his role,” said Girardi about his ace. “He understands his role as the number one guy.”
It is a luxury the Yankees have this season. They know that opposing managers may have to do things differently in close games after the sixth inning. Soriano, a closer who had an American League leading 43 saves with Tama Bay last season is in a set up role. And the Yankees still have another capable thrower out of the pen on the disabled list, Pedro Feliciano who will be used as a one out specialist late in games.
Granderson showed no signs of a strained oblique muscle pull that hindered him late in spring training. There was a time last week when Girardi thought his centerfielder would remain down in Tama Florida and start the season on the disabled list. However Granderson immediately showed in the first inning, and again in the ninth that he is in mid- season form.
He dived for a ball in the first inning and in the ninth, playing shallow, he reached out for a ball and got the second out for Rivera. Granderson, who started to show he could hit left handed pitching late last season gave the Yankees their go ahead run leading off the seventh with a home run to the second deck in right off losing pitcher Phil Coke.
Granderson did say he felt some discomfort in his first swings at bat. But a home run, and catches in the outfield that helped his team to victory will make some pain go away. “I didn’t feel a thing,” he said smiling about the home run swing.
On his ability to play shallow and make the plays Granderson said, “It showed in spring training, go as shallow as you can, back up and grab the ball.” There were no signs that Granderson had problems with the strain and worked the count against Coke before hitting his first home run of the season.
Mark Teixeira on a 1-1 pitch hit a three-run homer down the right field line off starter Justin Verlander putting the Yankees ahead in the third inning 3-1. It was the first of what could be many more for Teixeira who is known for a slow start.
“I got something to drive in the air,’ he said. I had a pretty good swing. It stayed fair enough and that’s what matters.” But what mattered was the Yankees took their opening game of the season and the formula that Girardi hoped for worked.
Game two of the opening game series with Detroit continues Saturday. A.J. Burnett, 10-15 last season gets the start for the Yankees.
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