Andy Pettitte delivered the win the Yankees needed, and a welcome flashback, too.
At a time when so many of the Yankees' mainstays are injured and expectations are lower than they've been in nearly two decades, Pettitte did his part to settle the nerves of Yankees fans everywhere.
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The 40-year-old lefthander threw eight vintage innings against the Red Sox, allowing one run, before handing the baton to Mariano Rivera to close out the Yankees' first 2013 win, 4-2, on another chilly night at Yankee Stadium.
Rivera, making his debut performance in what he has said will be his last season, allowed a run in the ninth but struck out Jackie Bradley Jr. to end it.
Pettitte and Rivera each made his Yankees debut in 1995, and it marked the 69th time Rivera has saved a Pettitte victory (and first since July 8, 2010).
The reminder of yesteryear came at a perfect time for the Yankees. On the heels of consecutive losses to open the season, Joe Girardi went so far as to say during the afternoon that this would be "a pretty important game for us," an unusually strong statement for the Yankees' manager. "You don't hear me say that very often," he said after the game with a smile.
Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli hit solo home runs for the Yankees, who will play a three-game weekend series in Detroit against the team that swept them in the ALCS last season. And they'll do so on a high note, mostly because of Pettitte.
His hair has grayed and his fastball is a few ticks slower, but Pettitte was the same vintage crafty lefthander, keeping the Red Sox hitters off-balance and constantly pitching out of trouble. He gave up eight hits but induced three double-play grounders.
Asked how big this win was, Pettitte laughed. "Nobody hits the panic button around here, do they?" he said. "It was important, there's no doubt about it. You don't want to lose your first three games at home. You just want to get that win."
Staked to a 3-0 lead after three innings, Pettitte pitched efficiently and effectively. The Red Sox broke through with two outs in the seventh when Will Middlebrooks singled and scored on Jackie Bradley Jr.'s double, cutting it to 3-1. But Gardner ran down David Ross' drive to deep centerfield and Pettitte threw a scoreless eighth to hand the game over to Rivera as if it were the late 1990s all over again.
"I always want to save the game, not only for him, but for everybody else," Rivera said. "At the same time, it's special when Andy goes in and does the kind of job that he knows how to do and allows me to close the game for him."
The night began with a new-look Yankees lineup, with Robinson Cano hitting second, and the Yankees responded with some early offense, something missing in their first two games.
Lyle Overbay, who was cut by the Red Sox late in spring training and immediately signed with the Yankees, blooped a two-out, two-run single in the second to give the Yankees their first 2013 lead. On Ryan Dempster's first pitch of the third inning, Gardner lined a low fastball just over the leaping Shane Victorino and into the first row in rightfield, extending the lead to 3-0. Cervelli's long home run to left-center in the seventh made it 4-1.
Cervelli saved Pettitte a run in the first. With two outs, Victorino tried to score from second on Pettitte's wild pitch, but Cervelli dashed from the backstop to the plate -- Pettitte didn't cover home -- and made a headlong dive to tag out Victorino.