The Yankees won their first game of the 2013 season like they have won so many others – with Andy Pettitte throwing the first pitch and Mariano Rivera throwing the last. As contemplating the starting lineup remains a daily dose of disappointment, Andy and Mo served much-needed notice to all us sad-sack fans – there is still something very special about rooting for the Yankees.
After CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda issued the Red Sox seven free bases in 6.3 innings, Andy Pettitte reminded us of the benefits of staying in and around the strike zone. He walked only one in eight strong innings and avoided trouble almost all night long. Three ground balls with men on base turned into three double plays. On the third double play, the key play to getting Andy through the eighth, an audible “hoot” leapt from my couch. I was surprised to learn it came from my throat.
Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli hit solo homers to give the Yankees a little breathing room in the ninth and set the stage for Mariano’s return to the mound for the first time since his knee injury last May. Mariano’s cutter broke sharply throughout his outing and, as David Cone noted, looks more and more like a suped-up slider every year.
He battled Dustin Pedroia but lost him to a walk when the umpire didn’t bite on a 2-2 pitch just off the corner. It was a ball, but it’s a call Mariano gets nearly every time. Jonny Gomes yoinked a double just over the third base bag which set up Pedroia to score on the second out of the inning. Even though the tying run was up in the form of very impressive rookie Jackie Bradley, there was no need to fret. Mariano gave the lefty-hitting rook a time-capsule experience.
The first pitch was the show-me cutter, hard and low but over the plate for a called strike. The second pitch started on the inner half and rode so far in on Bradley’s hands he could do nothing but foul it off his own chest. And on the third pitch Mariano pegged a blue dart at the outside corner which might as well been a mile away to poor Bradley. It was a ball, but the umpire finally caught on to what was happening and rung him up. Yanks 4, Sox 2.
It was the 69th time Mo saved one of Andy’s wins. But as familiar as it was, it’s also the new blueprint they’re going to have to follow to win while the lineup features the understudies. Starting pitcher keeps it close. A few timely hits and good defense. Bullpen holds the line.
There ‘s no shame about not being geeked up for this season given the injuries and the looming payroll decisions. I’ve haven’t been less personally invested in the Yankees since 1982, but I’m sure glad I watched this one.