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Yankees win opener in 'Grand' style

The Yankees' Curtis Granderson hits a go-ahead solo

The Yankees' Curtis Granderson hits a go-ahead solo home run in the seventh inning to make it 4-3 Yankees. (Mar. 31, 2011) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Curtis Granderson looked just fine.

So did the bullpen, discussed throughout the offseason as potentially the best in baseball.

The combination, along with CC Sabathia's solid outing and Mark Teixeira's three-run homer, helped the Yankees to a season-opening 6-3 win over the Tigers on a misty, windy and otherwise miserable 41-degree afternoon at the Stadium.

"It was as scripted," said Derek Jeter, who went 0-for-2 with a walk, an RBI and a run. "CC pitched a great game for us and then we went to our bullpen. We like our chances when we're late in the game, in close games, because those guys are capable of shutting guys out."

The bullpen, starting with Joba Chamberlain, pitched three perfect innings. Chamberlain gave way to new setup man Rafael Soriano, who gave way to Mariano Rivera, who recorded his 560th career save. Each recorded a strikeout.

"It really is one of the strengths, maybe the strongest part of our team," said Sabathia, who allowed three runs -- two earned -- and six hits in six innings. "You saw that today."

Soriano and Rivera held the lead that Granderson provided when he led off the seventh with a homer off former Yankee Phil Coke to make it 4-3. Jeter added a sacrifice fly later in the inning and Nick Swisher blooped an RBI single in the eighth to make it 6-3.

Granderson, held back in Tampa to play in a minor- league game Wednesday to make sure his strained oblique had healed, also contributed two terrific defensive plays. He made a diving grab of Will Rhymes' sinking liner in the first and an over-the-shoulder catch -- after a long run straight back -- of Brandon Inge's drive off Rivera in the ninth.

"There were obviously questions on Tuesday on how it was going to turn out, but he looked great today," Joe Girardi said. "Outstanding defense, big home run in the seventh. He looks great."

New Yankees catcher Russell Martin looked good working with Sabathia and produced offensively, going 1-for-3 and scoring two runs. He also stole third base on the pitch before Teixeira's homer. Afterward, though, he mostly talked about the bullpen. "[Innings] seven, eight, nine, Joba, Soriano and Mo; for me, I think it's the best in the league," Martin said.

Neither starter got a decision despite providing a quality start. Sabathia walked two and struck out seven, getting through the day without his best stuff. Justin Verlander allowed three runs -- all of them on Teixeira's third-inning homer -- and three hits in six innings, walking four and striking out eight.

"I made some pitches when I had to," said Sabathia, who allowed an unearned run that tied it at 3 in the fifth after Robinson Cano dropped a throw for an error. "And our bullpen came in and shut it down."

It's a formula the Yankees -- whose rotation beyond Sabathia is the team's biggest question mark by far -- hope repeats itself.

"We talked about our bullpen could play a huge role for us this year, and it did today," Girardi said. "We get three scoreless innings out of them with Joba, Soriano and Rivera. And we're going to need that ... It was great to see the way we did it. Tex has a three-run homer, a big homer by Grandy, you get six innings from your starter, then bam-bam, you go to your bullpen. It works out nice. It's how you draw it up."

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