CC Sabathia is notorious for having rough starts to his seasons, but in the fifth inning of Sunday night’s Opening Night game against the Red Sox in Boston, he seemed to be putting that behind him. Sabathia faced just one more hitter than the minimum through 4 2/3 innings, allowing a lone run in the second when Kevin Youkilis doubled and came around to score on a pair of outs.
By then the Yankees had built up a 5-1 lead. In the second, Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson connected for back-to-back solo homers off Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, Posada’s clanking low off the Pesky Pole, Granderson’s going more than 100 feet further to right center. In the fourth, a two-out rally added three more runs when, wth Robinson Cano on third following a leadoff double and a productive out by Posada, Nick Swisher walked, Brett Gardner singled home Cano, and Derek Jeter singled home Swisher. Nick Johnson followed and, on Beckett’s 0-2 pitch, Jeter took off for second, then slammed on the breaks just shy of the bag with the intention of getting into a run-down to allow Gardner to scamper home from third. The plan worked even better than expected as Victor Martinez’s throw was so weak that not only did Gardner score, but Jeter was able to scamper safely into second without a throw, though that was moot as Johnson struck out on the next pitch.
The Yankees drove Beckett from the game in the fifth when, with two outs, Cano was held to a single on a ball off the right-field wall by a fine play by J.D. Drew and Posada walked. Both were advanced by a wild pitch by reliever Scott Schoeneweis, but the lefty recovered to strike out Granderson and end the threat.
Sabathia got the first two outs of the bottom of the fifth rather quickly, getting David Ortiz to pop up and striking out Adrian Beltre, but he then gave up three straight singles to Drew, Mike Cameron, and Marco Scutaro, resulting in the second Boston run. After striking out Jacoby Ellsbury to end that inning, Sabathia failed to retire the first three men he faced in the sixth, issuing a five-pitch leadoff walk to Dustin Pedroia, then giving up a double to Victor Martinez and a triple into the right field corner by Youkilis that plated both runners. Over 100 pitches and clearly fatigued, Sabathia hung around to retire fellow lefty David Ortiz, then left in favor of David Robertson, who gave up a first-pitch single to Adrian Beltre that tied the game, but then retired the next two men on five more pitches.
With that, a typical, high-scoring, see-saw Yankees/Red Sox game at Fenway emerged. The Yankees scored two runs off Ramon Ramirez in the top of the seventh on a Mark Teixeira walk, Alex Rodriguez double, surprising Robinson Cano RBI groundout (Cano hit a hard grounder right at Pedroia, but Pedroia hesitated to throw home, giving up the run), and a Posada RBI single, but the Red Sox got them right back plus one in the bottom of the inning.
Despite Robertson’s efficiency in the sixth, Joe Girardi replaced him with Chan Ho Park in the bottom of the seventh. Park surrendered the lead almost immediately, giving up a lead-off single to Scutaro and, after another Ellsbury strikeout, a home run just over the Green Monster down the left field line by Pedroia (Posada’s second-inning homer traveled roughly 350 feet, Pedroia’s Monster shot went roughly 340). After getting Martinez to ground out, Park was driven from the game by a Youkilis double. Girardi called on sore-shouldered Damaso Marte to face fellow-lefty David Ortiz, but Marte slung his first pitch, a slider, outside beyond Posada’s reach, moving Youkilis to third. Three pitches later, his 2-1 offering was a fastball that was supposed to be low but sailed shoulder-high where it clanked off Jorge Posada’s glove for a run-scoring passed ball.
Joba Chamberlain replaced Marte (who ultimately walked Ortiz) and got the elusive final out of the seventh, but in the eighth, Chamberlain got into his own bit of trouble, giving up a one-out single to Mike Cameron, walking Scutaro, and giving up an RBI single to Pedroia. That handed a 9-7 lead to Jonathan Papelbon, who worked around a two-out Posada single to nail down the win.
And it only took three hours and 46 minutes!