After the long winter we just had, I would have watched the game happy as a clam (well, a slightly grumpy clam) even if the Yanks had been blown out of the water. Instead, C.C. Sabathia pushed through a cold and slightly awkward start, the Yankees wore down Justin Verlander, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson put in early bids for their bounceback years, and the Yanks started 2011 with a nice 6-3 win over the Tigers.
The game began with the soothing routine of Opening Day traditions – the introduction of both teams (which made me miss Bob Sheppard, suddenly and sharply – I especially wanted to hear him say “Luis Ayala”), the fighter-jet flyover – I heard them on their way back here in Brooklyn – and a first pitch thrown out by Mike Mussina, who is now literally an Old Graybeard, three years into his retirement. His pitch, if you were wondering, was a little high but reached the plate free and easy. I miss him too.
For his part, Sabathia wasn’t in his full-on dominant ace mode, but he fought through to a quality start. A bases-loaded sac fly to Jhonny Peralta got the Tigers on the board in the second, a Brandon Inge single scored Miguel Cabrera to make it 3-2 in the 4th, and messy inning that included a Robbie Cano error and a number of lucky bounces tied the game an inning later. The Yankees kept tacking on, though, while their pen shut Detroit down. If the Yankees are going to win a lot of games this year, I imagine this will be a familiar pattern.
There were lots of good signs today. The lineup at a whole showed the usual Yankee patience. The bullpen was just about perfect, including Joba and pricey newbie Rafael Soriano, and of course Mo – now rockin’ the high socks – was Mo. A-Rod hit a long double that might well have been a homer with different weather. Russell “Hustle” Martin singled, stole third, and later reached on a throwing error and scored on a short sac fly, good to see from a guy who was criticized by many, including himself, for his lack of focus in LA at times.
Granderson made at least three excellent plays in center, including a diving catch in the 1st and an over-the-shoulder beauty in the ninth, and I was wincing for his oblique but he seems to have come through just fine. Add to that his 7th-inning go-ahead home run, and he wins the game ball. Incidentally, the homer he hit in the 7th – a long one to the same are as mark Teixeria’s – was off Phil Coke, who was part of the trade that brought him here last year, and is now taking full advantage of the Tigers’ facial hair and grooming policies.
Fun fact: According to Ken Singleton, Brett Gardner invited Kevin Long over for Thanksgiving dinner this past year. Long had plans with his own family so couldn’t go, but: awww.
Welcome back, everyone.