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The Yankees ended their six-game road trip on a strong note against two AL East rivals Sunday afternoon. The day after CC Sabathia’s near no-hitter A.J. Burnett pitched seven strong innings and Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez drove in two runs apiece to lead the Yankees over the Tampa Bay Rays 7-3.

Burnett allowed two runs and six hits as he earned his first win of the season. Burnett gave up singles to Jason Bartlett and Carl Crawford to start the game then limited Tampa Bay to four hits over the next six innings.

Joba Chamberlain pitched the eighth, allowing a RBI triple to Crawford. Mariano Rivera worked a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation.

Posada’s two-run homer off Randy Choate gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the sixth. Rodriguez doubled off the wall in left field to drive in two to make it 6-2 in seventh, and Nick Swisher added a solo homer in the eighth off Andy Sonnanstine.

In a note that Chad Jennings wrote on LoHud, Swisher made a split-second decision to bring his warm-up bat to the plate. That 34-oz bat is three ounces heavier than his regular bat. He promptly hit a home run.

Burnett, who walked three and struck out one, worked out of a jam in the sixth after the Rays loaded the bases, helped by Evan Longoria’s infield pop single that struck one of the catwalks in the domed stadium before falling to the field. Burnett improved to 12-4 lifetime against the Rays, including 6-2 in 11 starts at Tropicana Field. He was 4-0 with a 1.97 ERA in five starts against Tampa Bay last season.

Bartlett singled leading off the first, stole second and scored on Crawford’s single. Carlos Pena later grounded into a force play to drive home Crawford.

Curtis Granderson’s RBI double began New York’s comeback against Rays starter James Shields in the second inning. Granderson got two hits today to raise his season average to .348. The day after getting three hits in his last three ABs, Mark Teixeira went 0-4 on his birthday. Although Tex is having a slow start, the Yankees are fueled by Rodriguez and their new #5 hitter, Robinson Cano, who’s leading the team with a .360 average.

The Yankees are off tomorrow (again) before starting their homestand with their own Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. They will host the Los Angeles Angels and will present their players with their World Series rings. Present will be former Yankee Hideki Matsui, who is now a member of the Angels. He’ll more likely be greeted by the Yankee faithful for his World Series game six masterpiece.

Andy Pettitte will pitch the home opener against Ervin Santana. Pregame ceremonies will start at 12:15 and the game will start at 1:05 p.m.

(Photo above from the AP)

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According to the Elias Sports Bureau (hat tip to Lohud Yankees Blog) when Mariano Rivera makes his first appearance this season, he, along with Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, will be the first three teammates to have played 16 straight seasons together for one team.  That’s HUGE.  Congrats to those three awesome guys and the Yankees for making this happen!

The Yankees opened the 2010 season on a good note, hitting back to back home runs to give them a 2-0 lead, which they squandered in the 7th inning and lost to the Boston Red Sox tonight in Fenway Park, 9-7.

CC Sabathia pitched 5.1 innings in his start and his counterpart Josh Beckett struggled, allowing five runs, eight hits, and only struck out one in 4.2 innings. Sabathia had six hits, five runs and four strikeouts.

Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson hit back to back home runs in the second inning, for the first Opening Day back-to-back jacks since 1983. Posada went 3 for 4 on the evening, with two RBIs. That home run was Granderson’s only hit. Robinson Cano came up big tonight, getting two hard-hit balls, going 2 for 5 with one RBI. Everyone in the Yankees’ lineup except Nick Johnson and Mark Teixeira had hits. Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner were the only other Yankees to get multiple hits. Jeter went 2 for 5 and Gardner hit .500 with one RBI.

There was one brilliant play in the fourth inning when a double-steal happened when Jeter dashed for second base and Gardner sped home and stole home from third base. That was a payback for Jacoby Ellsbury stealing home last year. Brilliant play by the Yankees there.

While CC Sabathia did not earn the decision tonight, he was good for the first five innings, but outfield mental errors by Brett Gardner gave the Red Sox an opportunity to tie the game. It was Gardner’s first game in left field, but he definitely acted that way, not making good jumps on the ball and at one point missing the cut off man and throwing it past Jorge Posada at catcher.

Granderson, however, made an excellent back-to-wall catch in the second inning and he may be a nice asset for the Yankees in centerfield. Only the rest of the season will tell if he’s a good fit than he was in Comerica Park.

The Yankees’ bullpen imploded after Sabathia exited. David Robertson entered the game and allowed a hit, but it was Chan Ho Park, formerly of the Phillies, that allowed three runs, giving the Red Sox the advantage. Park earned the loss for the Yankees tonight. Joba Chamberlain entered in the 8th inning and wasn’t effective allowing two hits and walking one while throwing 33 pitches for 1.1 innings.

Yes, the Yankees may have lost tonight, but keep in mind the Yankees lost eight straight to open the season against the Red Sox, but look at who won the World Series last year.

Both teams are off tomorrow, and the second game is on Tuesday and it features AJ Burnett vs. Jon Lester.

As the Yankee Universe revolves around spring training, there’s another article by yet another Yankees beat writer on Jesus Montero.

This time it’s Ben Shpigel of the Times with his piece on how much Montero has matured and while his bat is ready for the majors, his body isn’t.

Cashman recalled an instance from last Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Twins, when Montero, after falling behind to Jesse Crain, 0-2, sensed that an outside breaking ball was coming. It did, and Montero poked it down the right-field line for a double.

“It’s amazing that at 20 years old he’s a .320 lifetime hitter,” Long said. (Montero’s career average is actually .325.) “But he’s got to get his body in shape and turn from being a soft kid to a hard-nosed man.

Montero himself even admits that he wants to move up in the organization as a catcher (even though he started as a middle infielder). The Yankees are committed to making that happen and with two former catchers on the bench (Joe Girardi and Tony Pena), and Jorge Posada as a mentor, Montero has everything in place for him to do that.

The catching instructor Tony Pena and Manager Joe Girardi have worked with Montero on refining his throwing mechanics, specifically on shortening his release.

According to the Yankees, Montero usually needs 1.9 to 2.0 seconds to catch and throw the ball to second base, whereas an elite catcher, like Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals, can do it in about 1.7. Long after his teammates had finished their morning workout Saturday, Montero remained in the Yankees’ bullpen to work on his throwing technique with Girardi.

Pena said: “He has a strong arm — a very strong arm — but he can’t rely on that. If he has the proper mechanics, everything else will take over, and then we’ll have what we like.”

Posada’s contract expires after the 2011 season, and it’s a good bet we’ll see Montero behind the plate in 2012. If not before as the primary backup next year. One thing’s for sure, the Yankees have their Matt Wieters in development-mode.

With the Fall Classic slated to start tonight, here’s the preview from Generation Third.

The Bombers are coming off a thrilling 5-2 win in ALCS game 6 to eliminate the Angels and head to the World Series for the first time since 2003. Andy Pettitte pitched great, Mariano Rivera got a 6-out save.

And right down the Turnpike is Philadelphia, the defending champs, and after winning the NLCS almost a week ago, the Phillies were resting up to see who they would face in the Fall Classic. Last year the Phillies waited 6 days until playing the Rays in last year’s WS, and this year it will be 7 days until first pitch is thrown.

Let’s get to the comparisons.

First Base: Both Mark Teixeira and Ryan Howard had huge years, but as soon as the playoffs started, Howard jumped in front of Teixeira by driving in 14 runs combined in the NLDS and NLCS, while Tex struggled and drove in only 4 combined. But, while Howard may be a bit better offensively, Tex provides much better defense at first, and after hitting that big 3-run double in Game 5 and then after picking up a couple hits in Game 6, Tex may be on the verge of a huge World Series. But it isn’t the same as actually doing it.

Edge: Phillies

Second Base: Both Chase Utley and Robinson Cano are slick fielding, power hitting, RBI machines, and both of them proved that in the regular season as Cano knocked 25 out of the park and drove in 85, and Utley slammed 31 out and drove in 93. Defensively, Cano has a better arm, but other than that, they’re pretty much even.

Edge: EVEN

Third Base: Alex Rodriguez is having the postseason of his life, as the slugger has finally gotten out of his playoff slump. ALCS and ALDS stats combine show A-Rod is hitting .438 with 5 home runs and 12 RBIs. Hopefully he can continue his dominance in the World Series, and if he does that, the Yanks have a very good chance to bring home #27. Pedro Feliz is having the complete opposite of the postseason that A-Rod is having. He’s batting .161 with just 1 walk in all 9 playoff games.

Edge: Yankees

Shortstop: Derek Jeter had an MVP-caliber year for the Yanks during the regular season, and Jimmy Rollins didn’t do that much worse for the Phillies. They’re both pretty even, regular season stats wise. But in the playoffs, Rollins has failed to pick up an RBI, while the Captain has drove in 5 and hit 3 long balls. Even if Rollins played better than Jeter this postseason, Jeter would get the edge, because of his postseason experience.

Edge: Yankees

Catcher: Jorge has more experience and is having a good postseason, hitting a couple homers and driving in 3 RBIs. The only bad thing – 7 strikeouts and leaving 10 men on base in ALCS game 6. He needs to swing at more pitches, and needs to actually make contact when he does swing. Fixes that, and he’s golden. Carlos Ruiz is in his 4th year in the Bigs, and had a pretty nice year. He hit 9 homers, drove in over 30 RBIs, and is a pretty good defensive catcher. He also had a big NLCS. But like with the shortstop comparison, its the experience that plays a factor, and Jorge has much more experience and really, is a better player overall.

Edge: Yankees

Designated Hitter: Back in May, when in Yankee Stadium, the Phillies used a better fielding outfielder twice and used Ibanez as a DH (Mayberry Jr. as the outfielder). Their DH/OF, in this case Matt Stairs and John Mayberry Jr. went a combined 3/13, with 1 HR, 3 RBI, and 3 Ks. Matsui is the more experienced DH, and obviously has better numbers than Stairs/Mayberry.

Edge: Yankees

Outfielders: For the Yankees, Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, and Nick Swisher, is good – offensively, at least. Defensively, Damon, even though he’s one of my favorite players, plays a terrible outfield and Swish is right about average defensively if not a bit below average. Melky really is the only really good defender out in the outfield, but thanks to the power of Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher, putting them out there inning after inning isn’t a bad thing at all. For the Phillies, you got Raul Ibanez in left, Shane Victorino in center, and Jayson Werth in right. Ibanez has power and plays an average outfield, Shane Victorino “The Flying Hawaiian” has speed and plays a very good outfield, and Werth is a big home-run hitter and plays a good enough outfield to get by.

Edge: Phillies

Bench: The Yankees have Eric Hinske and Brett Gardner off the bench. Hinske went on a mini-offensive tear when he was acquired. Brett Gardner, if he had gotten more playing time, might have gotten ROY. For the Phillies, they removed former Yank Miguel Cairo in favor of pitcher Brett Myers. I think having Cario on your bench speaks volumes.

Edge: Yanks

Pitching Rotations: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte have all shined during the postseason, and rightfully so have been tabbed as the best rotation in the World Series. CC was the ALCS MVP, A.J. tossed a couple nice games before allowing 6 runs in Game 5, and Andy has been his normal postseason self. The Phillies’ have Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Pedro Martinez. Cliff Lee has been great as expected, Cole Hamels, has been okay, and Pedro, in his only playoff start, allowed a run against the Dodgers in Game 2 of the NLCS. Besides CC against Cliff Lee in Games 1, 4, and 7, it doesn’t look like the other matchups will be intriguing. The edge goes to the Yanks here.

Edge: Yankees

Bullpen: The Phillies have two reliable arms out of the ‘pen. Closer Brad Lidge and Scott Madson. Even though Lidge blew 11 saves this season, he’s regained his form. The Yanks have a potential unstoppable 7-8-9 bridge in Joba-Phil-Mo, along with Dave Robertson, Damaso Marte, Al Aceves, and Chad Gaudin. Lidge he does not compare to the best closer in baseball in Mariano Rivera.

Edge: Yankees

Managers: And last, but certainly not least, the managers. Charlie Manuel, coming off his first World Series Championship last year, has been the Phillies manager since 2006, and has lead the Phillies to three straight NL East titles. Joe Girardi has improved this year, and while I believe he handles the line-up better, he has made some questionable decisions regarding the bullpen. I’m hoping his bench coaches will help him make decisions.

Edge: Phillies

I don’t believe in making predictions ‘cuz I don’t want to jinx anything. It’s obvious, being a third generation fan, who I want to win.

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