Pettitte, Jeter help Yankees win home opener
The afternoon began with one final, glorious acknowledgment of 2009. It ended with a reminder of what has been evident early on this season: The 2010 Yankees are pretty good, too.
Behind six shutout innings in which Andy Pettitte consistently got himself in and out of trouble, and home runs by Nick Johnson and Derek Jeter, the Yankees took their home opener, 7-5, over the Angels in front of a sellout crowd of 49,293 Tuesday at the Stadium.
"We can finally close the door," Mark Teixeira said. "And we should have celebrated today. We should have celebrated last year because of all the work, and it doesn't happen every year. Only one team out of 30 gets to get those rings on Opening Day. So we celebrated today but now 2009 is officially over and we can now really concentrate on the season."
The day of pomp and circumstance had a bit of everything.
It began with Jeter and Joe Girardi going into George Steinbrenner's suite and presenting the 79-year-old owner with his diamond-studded World Series ring before the on-field ceremony when everyone else got theirs.
There was more emotion when trainer Gene Monahan, who is ill and missed his first spring training in 48 years, received his ring, then heard a prolonged ovation from the players and fans.
Perhaps the biggest roar was for the last player introduced, Hideki Matsui, the World Series MVP now with the Angels, whose ring box contained a fake that fans received in Tampa as a giveaway before the Yankees' final spring training game. The prank was of Jeter's inspiration, and when Girardi gave Matsui the real ring during the baseline introductions, the former Yankee was pointing and laughing at Jeter.
"It was fun," said Jeter, who had two hits, including his first homer of the season, and two RBIs. "Home openers are always fun, and when you get a ring on top of it makes it even better. We couldn't ask for anything more. The fans were great and it was more fun that we got the win."
A somewhat drab game, which the Yankees led 7-1 going into the ninth, suddenly became interesting when Bobby Abreu hit a grand slam off Dave Robertson that brought the Angels to within two runs. That necessitated an appearance by Mariano Rivera, who got the final two hitters for his third save.
But even Girardi saw that as fitting because with Rivera's contributions, the Yankees' Final Four from the 1990s title teams - Jeter, Pettitte, Rivera and Jorge Posada - all contributed to the victory.
Pettitte, who allowed one run in six innings in his April 7 start in Fenway, was even better Tuesday, allowed five hits in six innings. The Angels (2-6) left seven on base against Pettitte and were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position against the lefty.
Johnson, who homered to rightfield off Ervin Santana (0-2) in the first inning, was on base four times, going 2-for-3 with two walks. Posada had three hits and Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez had two apiece, and A-Rod added two RBIs.
"They all played big roles last year, as well," Girardi said of his four Yankees with the most seniority. "Andy won the last game at the Stadium last year and won the first one this year. Derek had some big hits, Jorgie too. Mo closed it out. It is appropriate."