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The Yankees held onto their fifth win of the season Tuesday in their home opener in front of a record-setting crowd.  The Bombers took a 7-1 lead into the ninth inning after homers by Derek Jeter and Nick Johnson and 2-RBI games from Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

The Yankees also collected their World Series Championship rings in a short ceremony before the game which each player being announced and jogging out from the dugout to join their teammates along the first baseline.  After each player was introduced, former player Hideki Matsui was announced and he walked out from the Angels dugout.  It was great watching Matsui as he waited to be announced – he looked so proud and as if it was difficult for him to hold in a big smile.

After Matsui ran out and collected the same ring box every Yankee player received, the entire team surrounded him at the pitchers mound and gave him a bear hug.  In an interesting twist, Joe Girardi ran over to give Matsui something before the game and it turned out to be his World Series ring.  Apparently the box that Matsui received did not have his real ring in it – Derek Jeter reportedly substituted the real ring with a fake one to play a joke on Matsui.

The same joke appeared to be played on Nick Swisher after Mariano Rivera was seen handing him a ring after the ceremony.  Rivera said some words to Swisher and Swish seemed to acknowledge that a joke was played on him.

In the game, Andy Pettitte was more then sufficient on the mound, last 6 full innings, holding the normally powerful Angels lineup scoreless and limited to only 5 hits and 3 walks.  He also struck out 6.  Chan Ho Park allowed one run in two innings and in a relatively low-pressure ninth inning, David Robertson promptly loaded the bases and allowed Bobby Abreu to bring the score to 7-5 with a grand slam home run.

Skipper Joe Girardi then brought in Mariano Rivera to finish the game and pick up his 3rd save of the season.

The Yankees offense was sparked by solo home runs by Johnson and Jeter in the first and third innings and RBI singles by Jeter and Rodriguez in the fourth and sixth innings to bring the score to 5-0.  Kendry Morales put the Angels on the board in the 8th with a solo shot off of Park and the Bombers promptly responded with an RBI double by Jorge Posada and a RBI single by Curtis Granderson.

That sent the game into the top of the ninth with the Yankees leading 7-1.  After Abreu’s heroics, Rivera came into get the final two outs and complete the game.

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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)

Two nights ago the Yankees bullpen was simply awful. Chan Ho Park and his teammates allowed 4 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks in just 2.2 innings, blew a two-run lead and the game. Last night the combination of Alfredo Aceves, Damaso Marte, Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera shut down the Red Sox and led the Yankees to victory, 6-4 over the Sox.

Aceves threw two perfect innings on his way to the win. Marte retired the only batter he needed to, David Ortiz. Joba threw the ball better than he has in a long time. And Mo was Mo.

Joba was the biggest story tonight for the Yanks, especially after that shaky performance on Sunday. For this one night, he look a lot like the Joba of old. Maybe he wasn’t throwing as hard, but he was just as dominating. With the tying run on second base and one out in a noisy Fenway Park, Joba came in to strike out Adrian Beltre and J.D. Drew on nine pitches. Behind 2-1 in the count, Joba got Drew to swing and miss on back-to-back sliders to end the inning. Joba then threw in one of his fist pumps.

A.J. Burnett lasted just five innings. He made two major mistakes in the game, both to Victor Martinez. The first coming with the score tied in the 3rd when Martinez launched a two-run homer. Then, with the score now tied at three in the 5th, Martinez struck again with an RBI double. In five innings Burnett allowed 4 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits and a walk, and struck out 5.

Jon Lester was no better for Boston, although early on it looked like he would be. In 5 innings he allowed 4 runs on 5 hits, walked 3, and struck out 4.

Nick Swisher got the Yankees on the board with an RBI double. He’s now 3-for-7 on the young season and has looked very good.

Lester would hold the Yankees off the board for the next two innings and by the fifth they were finally able to break through. Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter started the inning with back-to-back singles. Lester then loaded the bases for Mark Teixeira by hitting Nick Johnson with a pitch. Tex didn’t do much damage, but he hustled his way out of a DP and drove in the Yankees second run. Alex Rodriguez tied the game win a line drive RBI double into the left field corner. Robinson Cano then gave the Yankees the lead with a sac fly, and Cano had a solo homer in the ninth to give the Yankees an insurance run.

It took the Yankees four months to get their first win against the Sox last year. This year it took them only two days. Tonight they should go for their second victory over the Sox. Tonight should be another battle with Andy Pettitte facing former Angel, John Lackey as he makes his Boston debut. Game time is 7:10 p.m. and you can catch the game on YES and ESPN2.

Opens on two Red Sox fans at home, singing “Sweet Caroline,” which if you didn’t know is played every game at Fenway Park.  As the two sing it, they get to the part of the song where the singer goes “oh, oh, oh” and they point at someone off-screen who ends up being Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher.

Swish, wearing a Yankees World Series Champions t-shirt, holding a bowl of pretzels says, without skipping a beat “no way dude.”

Classic.

Don’t forget, the season starts Sunday night – Yankees at Red Sox.

When you’ve got the major league record of wins in a postseason, you don’t question a man’s character. And last night, after a early 3-0 lead, Pettitte never gave up.

He was not at his best, but when it came to key points of the night — Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard, he got them to go 0-9 with 6 strikeouts. Howard now has 9 strikeouts in three games, and he is on pace to obliterate the World Series record of 12 strikeouts.

Instead of writing a game recap, I’m going to defer to Greg Cohen at Sliding into Home. He always provides a good recap.

Here’s what Greg said about last night’s game

It was a gutty and gritty performance by the Yankees tonight as they fought their way back from a 3-0 deficit to win and take a 2-1 lead in the series. But the way things started out this one looked like it was going to be a total disaster.

Ed Valentine on Pinstripe Alley brought up several good points

  • Lack of reporting from FOX on the home run that was reversed — the first one ever in the World Series.
  • Praise for Pettitte from Mike Lupica of the Daily News.
  • Cole Hamels’ curveball to Pettitte that he hit for a RBI and eventually scored on.
  • Swisher’s performance last night — a hit and a home run.
  • Phil Hughes. More on that later.

I watched the first five innings of the game from Greene Turtle restaurant in my area except for the 6th inning (missed Swisher’s bomb). Then at home I watched the last 3.5 frames. I felt confident with Hughes last night in the 9th and felt he could get it done, even after giving up a home run to Ruiz. My attitude is like, ok, move on. He could have gotten the last two outs, I feel.

So, Girardi’s decision to go to Rivera was a little premature in my opinion. I can see that Girardi won’t take any chances at all, but we cannot gas out Rivera when there are at maximum four games left. IF Hughes had allowed one more run, then I’d go for Rivera, but not when there’s still 3 runs left to tie the game.

Two more links for you to read this morning — Jayson Stark’s column on ESPN.com.

Five outs into his memorable Saturday evening, he was three runs down. He’d already huffed and puffed his way through 50 — yep, that number was 50 — pitches. And he looked like a bigger threat to be heading for the nearest shower stall any second than for the winning pitcher’s spot on the interview-room podium three hours later.

But when a man has spent his whole career pitching on the October stage, his heart doesn’t pump at 4,000 beats a minute at times like that.

When a man has started more World Series games than anyone in history not named Whitey Ford, he doesn’t feel the ballpark shaking, doesn’t hear those 46,000 people shrieking.

And so, on the final night of October 2009, on the most important night of his season, Pettitte found a way to do what he had to do:

Survive.

Jim Capel talks about A-Rod.  Yes, the man some people despise, and the man some people have reconnected with after such a memorable postseason.

After all, 2009 has been A-Rod’s personal reality show, better known as “Alex & Kate Plus 28 (Counting Coaches).” The home run simply added to Rodriguez’s 2009 saga that already included Joe Torre’s book, the steroids revelations, the hip surgery, the Kate Hudson relationship, his superb second half, his extraordinary postseason … and then came the latest episode of Days of Our A-Rod in which Rodriguez homered to spark a Yankees rally, made a throwing error, was hit by not one but two pitches and helped make World Series history.

Gene Woj thinks Girardi is out of his mind with going on a three-man rotation. Pettitte needed 106 pitches to make it through 6 innings and doing Burnett and Pettitte on short rest may come back to haunt Girardi… Read an excerpt.

…Girardi is giving every indication that he’ll push all-in with his three big chips: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. He’s doing this because his team has a $208 million payroll, but it doesn’t have a fourth starter he trusts. This is like buying a tank but not having the Parts Department attach the gun turret.

Today will be a fun-filled sports day. My Giants vs the Eagles at 1pm. Favre’s return to Green Bay at 4:15 and the game #4 at 8:20. I hope I can watch all three and get everything else done that I need to.

 

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