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Yankees fall to Red Sox, 9-7, after taking 5-1 lead

The Yankees' Derek Jeter is nearly picked off

The Yankees' Derek Jeter is nearly picked off at first base by Josh Beckett of the Boston Red Sox. (Apr. 4, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

BOSTON - Nothing much looked wrong with the Yankees' reconfigured lineup on Opening Night.

The pitching, on the other hand, left much to be desired.

CC Sabathia failed to hold a four-run lead and the bullpen coughed up a two-run advantage as the Yankees lost their season opener, 9-7, to the Red Sox last night at Fenway Park.

"It's disappointing,'' Derek Jeter said. "Any time you score seven runs and CC's on the mound, you like your chances. But they battled back.''

In a game that lasted 3:46, the headline attraction was the matchup of the team's aces, but both were roughed up. Josh Beckett was gone after allowing five runs and eight hits in 42/3 innings. Sabathia lasted 51/3 innings, allowing five runs and six hits.

"I just think I nibbled a little too much and got behind and got in hitters' counts,'' Sabathia said. "It's a tough lineup to try to pitch to when you're in hitters' counts . . . I normally don't do that, especially with the lead. It was just one of those days today where I kind of lost focus.''

The Yankees took leads of 5-1 and 7-5, but couldn't hold the Red Sox offense down. The bullpen, talked about as being a strength during the offseason, spring training and before the game, didn't get the job done. None of the relievers - David Robertson, Chan Ho Park, Damaso Marte and Joba Chamberlain - looked particularly good.

"You don't make too much out of one game, either way," Joe Girardi said. "If they had thrown all zeroes, you don't make too much of it. It's a long season. It's just one game."

After Mark Teixeira walked and Alex Rodriguez doubled off Ramon Ramirez to begin the seventh inning, Robinson Cano made it 6-5 with a groundout off Hideki Okajima and Jorge Posada added an RBI single.

But with one out in the bottom of the inning, Dustin Pedroia hit a two-run homer off Park to tie it at 7. Kevin Youkilis (triple, two doubles, three runs, two RBIs) doubled to center with two out, and after Marte replaced Park, his wild pitch and a passed ball charged to Posada gave the Red Sox their first lead of the game at 8-7. Pedroia added a two-out RBI single off Chamberlain in the eighth.

"I was trying to go away but it was up and in,'' Park said of Pedroia's homer. "Missed location.''

Said Girardi, "I know they have a very explosive offense and they can get to you quickly, and that's what they did to us tonight.''

Beckett set down the Yankees in order in a seven-pitch first inning and seemed headed for a similarly easy second when Posada stepped up with two outs. But Posada, 10-for-31 but with no homers in his career against Beckett, ripped the righthander's 2-and-1 pitch off Pesky's Pole in rightfield to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.

A batter later, Curtis Granderson slammed Beckett's 3-and-2 pitch to deep right-center for a 2-0 lead. That temporarily sucked much of the life out of a sellout crowd that had been whipped into a frenzy by pregame festivities that included a fighter jet flyover, a pyrotechnics show and Pedro Martinez emerging from the Green Monster to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Posada and Granderson become the first Yankees to homer back-to-back on Opening Day since Dave Winfield and Steve Kemp did it April 5, 1983, at Seattle. Granderson had been 2-for-14 with eight strikeouts against Beckett. He became the first Yankee to homer in his first at-bat with the team since Cody Ransom did it Aug. 17, 2008, against the Royals.

The Red Sox cut their deficit to 2-1 in the bottom of the second as Youkilis led off with a double and scored on Adrian Beltre's sacrifice fly to deep center on which Granderson made a fine catch at the base of the wall.

The Yankees scored three runs in the fourth for a 5-1 lead. Cano, in his first game as the club's No. 5 hitter, led off with a double. Two groundouts later, Beckett was nearly out of the inning, but he walked Nick Swisher on a 3-and-2 pitch and allowed an opposite-field single to left by Brett Gardner, his second of the game. It was an impressive seven-pitch at-bat by Gardner, who barely got a piece of a 3-and-2 pitch before lining his RBI single to left.

Jeter made it 4-1, grounding a single up the middle to drive in Swisher. With Nick Johnson at the plate, the Yankees pulled a double steal. Victor Martinez's throw to second was cut off by shortstop Marco Scutaro in front of the bag, but by that time, Gardner was sliding headfirst across the plate. He became the first Yankee to steal home since Rodriguez did it July 31, 2004, against Baltimore, also on a double steal.

But as Posada said, "You can't really get comfortable with a lead here. You just have to keep going.''

Sabathia cruised through the third and fourth but showed signs of trouble in the fifth. With two out, singles by J.D. Drew, Mike Cameron and Scutaro made it 5-2, and Boston tied it in the sixth. Pedroia walked, Martinez doubled and Youkilis lined a two-run triple to right. Sabathia got David Ortiz on a groundout, with Youkilis holding, but Robertson allowed an RBI single by Beltre.

"He got behind a little bit,'' Girardi said of Sabathia, "and when you do that to hitters like them, they can make you pay. They can make you pay when you're not behind them, either.''

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