New York Yankees' Bullpen Proves Better Than Tigers in Opening Day Win
After missing out on signing free-agent Cliff Lee and the retirement of veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte, the Yankees focused on improving their pitching in the later innings.
So far, so good.
After aces CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander battled to a 3-3 tie through six innings, the bullpens entered for both sides.
Joba Chamberlain, recent addition Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera each delivered perfect frames for the Yankees, while the Tigers' bullpen took the loss in a 6-3 decision on Opening Day in the Bronx.
Phil Coke served up a home run to Curtis Granderson to lead off the seventh and Ryan Perry allowed an insurance run after delivering a wild pitch that let Russell Martin advance to third before he scored on a Derek Jeter sac fly.
In the eighth, Perry walked leadoff hitter Alex Rodriguez before being relieved by Daniel Schlereth, who allowed A-Rod to come home on a Nick Swisher single.
But the question remains: How often will the Yankees bullpen have leads to protect when the other four starters are on the mound?
Here are the grades from New York's victory on Thursday afternoon.
Who was the MVP for the Yankees on Thursday?
Joe Girardi, Manager: (A) Girardi's decision to bat Gardner at the leadoff spot against right-handers is the right one, and hopefully the speedster becomes a better hitter against lefties so he can remain atop the order every game.
It was encouraging to see the Yankees play so much small ball in their first game of the year. Gardner laid down two sacrifice bunts and Martin even stole third base in the third inning.
Brett Gardner, LF: (B) Gardner struck out twice but did his job by sacrificing Martin from first to second with a pair of bunts.
It would be great to see the outfielder continue to do this all season long.
Derek Jeter, SS: (B+) The Captain didn't get any closer to 3,000 hits, but he did draw a walk, scored a run and picked up an RBI with a sac fly in the seventh.
Mark Teixeira, 1B: (A+) Teixeira's three-run homer in the third inning was a very good sign for a guy who has struggled over the first month of the season in his past two years with the Yankees.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B: (A) A-Rod carried his strong spring into the start of the regular season with a double and two walks, but his double could've been a triple had he not jogged out the box thinking the ball was gone.
Robinson Cano, 2B: (D) Cano had a rough spring and it carried over into Opening Day.
He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts but did draw a walk. In the field, he committed a crucial error in the fifth that eventually allowed the tying run to score.
Nick Swisher, RF: (C) Swisher was retired his first three times up, including on two strikeouts, but he hit an RBI single in the eighth before being caught in a rundown on the play.
Jorge Posada, DH: (F) The aging Posada's first day as the Yankees' starting DH did not go very well. He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and only hit the ball hard once on a flyout to right field in the fourth.
Curtis Granderson, CF: (A+) Granderson didn't show any signs of that oblique injury he suffered less than two weeks ago.
He made two outstanding plays in the field in the first and ninth innings, and hit what would prove to be the game-winning homer in the seventh.
Russell Martin, C: (A) Yankees fans had to love what they saw out of their new starting catcher on Thursday. He went 1-for-3, scored both times he reached base, stole third and hustled home on a sac fly hit to medium center field in the seventh.
CC Sabathia, SP: (B) Sabathia pitched poorly in his previous two Opening Day starts for the Yankees, but he turned in a quality outing this time around. The big lefty yielded three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over six innings.
He threw 70 of his 106 pitches for strikes and probably would have picked up the win if not for that Cano error.
Joba Chamberlain, RP: (A+) Joba retired the top of the Tigers' lineup in order with one strikeout in the seventh for the victory.
Rafael Soriano, RP: (A+) It's certainly not worth nearly $12 million a year, but Soriano retired the heart of Detroit's lineup in order with one strikeout in the eighth.
Mariano Rivera, RP: (A) Mo's job was the easiest of all three relievers, pitching with a three-run lead against the bottom of the order and he would have surrendered a double to Brandon Inge if not for a spectacular play by Granderson, but Rivera will of course receive the most credit.
Yankees Overall Grade: (A) The Bombers got solid starting pitching, great relief pitching and used an impressive mix of small and long ball to win their first game of the year.
Only 161 left to go.
Follow me on Twitter at @ JordanHarrison.
Jordan is one of Bleacher Report's New York Yankees and College Basketball Featured Columnists. His book Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and authorhouse.com.
He can be reached at email@example.com
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