Yanks deliver strong opening statement

Some underdogs. There was an ace keeping the Yankees in the game on Opening Day, a clutch home run in the late innings and the new eighth inning guy pitching flawlessly.

With CC Sabathia pitching six innings, Curtis Granderson hitting a seventh-inning solo home run and Rafael Soriano turning in a perfect eighth, the Yankees began the 2011 season with a 6-3 victory over the Tigers on Thursday.

“It’s very important, you never want to start the season with a bad game or a loss,” said Mark Teixeira, who lifted a three-run shot in the third off Justin Verlander.

Taking the mound in similar but colder conditions than Game 5 of the ALCS, Sabathia allowed three runs along with six hits and similar to when he faced the Rangers in an elimination game, the lefty controlled the damage. The most notable instance occurred with two on and one out when slugger Miguel Cabrera settled for a sacrifice fly in the fifth instead of hitting a three-run home run.

That tied the game but it quickly changed when Granderson put a charge into ex-teammate Phil Coke’s 2-0 pitch and sent it midway through the second deck. It was Granderson’s third straight Opening Day home run and more importantly, the home run off a lefty, something that did not occur until June 1 last year.

“I definitely am (more comfortable against lefties),” Granderson said. “It was part of the things we worked on with (hitting coach) Kevin Long in terms of eliminating the moving parts and when I got them all aligned it didn’t matter if it was a lefty or righty.”

Then it was Soriano’s turn and he did not disappoint, striking out Cabrera on a cutter and easily retiring Victor Martinez and Ryan Raburn. That occurred after Joba Chamberlain pitched a perfect seventh for the victory and before Mariano Rivera closed it out.

“We talked about our bullpen can play a huge role for us this year and it did today,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We got three scoreless innings out of them, starting with Joba, Soriano and Rivera. We’re going to need them.”

After an offseason of hearing how the Red Sox are the favorites in the AL East, the Yankees showed for one game what most of their wins could resemble, especially if other parts of the rotation perform in similar fashion.

That is a concern for another day, but the Yankees left frigid Yankee Stadium satisfied with how this one went. Satisfaction was not only derived from the performance of that trio but also because of contributions from others such as Teixeira, who hit a three-run home run and Russell Martin, who scored twice and stole a base.

If yesterday was the somewhat easy part, now comes the challenging part trying to duplicate it, especially on days when others take the mound.

“It was great – except for the weather,” Granderson said. “That was the only bad thing,”

If weather is the only complaint for the Yankees, then it will be the leader in the complaint department.

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