The game got off to an ignominious beginning for the Yankees in the first when, with two outs and runners on second and third, Girardi called for an intentional walk of Rodriguez to get to Pena, who promptly worked the count full before sending the 3-2 pitch into the right field stands in his first at bat since returning to the Rays. Pena would finish the game 3-5 with a home run and 5 RBI to lead the Rays’ attack in his homecoming effort. The Yankees chipped away half of that lead in the next half inning on an RBI ground out by Raul Ibanez and a passed ball that allowed Mark Teixeira to score. They went on to take the lead in the next inning when Pena failed to cut Robinson Cano down at the plate and Ibanez brought everyone home with a three run homer. Ibanez’s four RBI were the most for a debuting Yankee since Roger Maris in 1960.
Though both starters would continue to struggle, runs were scarce the rest of the game. Evan Longoria hit a no doubt solo home run in the bottom of the third to make it a 6-5 Yankees’ lead, and that would be it for the runs until the 9th. Shields was out of the game after 5 innings, while Sabathia did manage to finish the 6th, thanks in part to a fantastic play by Brett Gardner to cut down Jennings on a close play at second to end the 6th.
Truth be told, though he was certainly not at his best today, Sabathia did a very nice job of battling through the outing to make it through 6 full innings and hand the ball and the lead to Rafael Soriano and the Yankees’ trio of elite relievers. Soriano worked a relatively uneventful 7th while Robertson did his patented Houdini act in the 8th, walking the leadoff batter and having the runner move to third on a hit and run to put runners on the corners with no outs before proceeding to strike out the side (aided by Jose Molina bunting a ball foul for strike three). At that point, that old comfortable feeling set in for Yankees’ fans, safe in the knowledge that Mo would be protecting the lead in the 9th but, alas, baseball is a cruel mistress indeed.
Oh well, the best thing about Opening Day is that it’s just one out of 162, and the Yankees will be right back after it tomorrow night. And Mo’s only got so many of these outings in him in a given year, so that should be one fewer time we have to worry about it later in the season, right?
Tip O’ The Cap:
Raul Ibanez: Ibanez was one of our whipping boys early in the spring, but he finished the exhibition schedule strong, and that carried over into today. He finished the game just 1-5, but the one hit was the big home run, and one of the outs plated the Yankees’ first run.
Brett Gardner: Brett the Jet had a nice game at the plate, going 2-4 with a walk, and made that fantastic play to throw out Jennings in the 6th. Well, according to the umpire anyway.
Mo: The above pretty much says it all, no need to dwell on it further.
Joe Girardi: You guys can tell me I’m too hard on him all you want, but there’s no excuse for intentionally walking Sean Rodriguez in the first inning of the first game of the season to get to Carlos Pena. Just ridiculous.
C.C. Sabathia: The big guy wasn’t irredeemably terrible, he did strike out seven Rays in his 6 innings of work, but he also walked three and allowed eight hits, including the two big flys. On the bright side, Sabathia has generally not been very good on Opening Day in his Yankee tenure, and has been a pretty slow starter for most of his career, so there’s no reason to think this is anything but business as usual for the Yankees’ ace. And as I said, he did a heck of a job to get through the 6th and hand the lead directly to Soriano.
Curtis Granderson: Granderson might have been the Opening Day hero last year, but today he wore the collar, going 0-5 with two strikeouts. It wasn’t all bad, however, as he did work a 9 pitch at bat in the first inning to begin pushing up Shields’ pitch count and hit a couple of balls well, albeit right into the shift the Rays employed against him today.
The Yankees and Rays are back at it at the Trop tomorrow night. Hiroki Kuroda will make his Yankees’ debut in that one, while the Yankees’ will put their left-hander lineup on the field for the first time to face David Price. First pitch is at 7:10, and the game can be seen on the YES Network, as well as MLB Network nationally.