NEW YORK (AP) – Curtis Granderson hit a go-ahead homer leading off the seventh inning and Mark Teixeira had a three-run shot off Justin Verlander, lifting New York over the Detroit Tigers 6-3 Thursday in the first regular-season game played in the Bronx in March.
CC Sabathia pitched six workmanlike innings, Derek Jeter added a sacrifice fly in the seventh using his new stride-less swing and Mariano Rivera, wearing his socks high for perhaps the first time, earned his first save and 560th of his career.
Newcomers Russell Martin and Rafael Soriano did their part as the Yankees got off to a quick start on a gray, blustery, 42-degree day.
Granderson made two spectacular catches against his former team and homered for the third straight opener – off a lefty, no less. He connected against former Yankee Phil Coke (0-1) as New York embarked on its first full season without George Steinbrenner as owner since 1973.
With the flags above the lights in right field whipping toward the foul pole, Teixeira connected off Verlander in the third inning. Normally a .235 hitter in the first month of the season, the first baseman didn’t get his first hit last season until his fifth game.
Slimmed down by 25 pounds and healthy after having surgery on his right knee this winter, Sabathia gave up six hits and three runs – two earned. Starting on opening day in each of his three seasons with New York, Sabathia (1-0) struck out seven and walked two.
Joba Chamberlain, Soriano and Rivera pitched perfect innings and the Yankees retired the last 10 overall.
Verlander was making his fourth straight opening day start, most for the Tigers since Jack Morris went 10 in a row (1980-90). He was hoping to get off to a quick start to his season after going 1-2 with a 5.29 ERA last year in April before finishing 18-9, and he altered his offseason workout to help accomplish that.
Pitching in shirt sleeves, the right-hander reached 97 mph on the radar gun in the first, but walked Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez before striking out Robinson Cano with his 31st pitch of the inning.
Verlander gave up just two other hits, including Rodriguez’s one-out double in the sixth that hit the fence in right-center just above the 385-foot marker. He walked Cano, but struck out Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada with two deceptive changeups, one 85 mph, the other 86.
Jhonny Peralta drove in his first run of the month. After going without an RBI in 66 spring at-bats, he hit a sacrifice fly to center in his first plate appearance to give Detroit the lead in the second inning.
Miguel Cabrera lined a single to left and, in his first at-bat with Detroit, Victor Martinez hit a hot shot to shortstop that Jeter, making a half-dive to his left couldn’t corral, for a base hit. Sabathia walked the bases loaded before Peralta flied to Granderson.
Detroit closed it to 3-2 on Brandon Inge’s two-out single in the fourth, and tied it on Cabrera’s sacrifice fly in the fifth with help from Cano’s error on Will Rhymes’ sacrifice attempt. Covering first, Cano closed his glove before Teixeira’s toss arrived and the ball fell to the field.
Swisher had an RBI single in the eighth.
Granderson right away tested the injured side that kept him out of action since March 22, diving to make a catch on Rhymes’ sinking liner in the first. Granderson came up smiling and holding up his glove. He also made a running over-the-shoulder catch in the ninth.
NOTES: The last time these two teams met on opening day in New York was 1966, with the Tigers winning 2-1 on April 12. …. Mike Mussina threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … The Tigers failed to homer for the first time at the new Yankee Stadium.
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