Granderson, Teixeira help Yanks win frigid opener

By Howie Rumberg

Associated Press

Published: Friday, April 1 2011 4:01 a.m. MDT

New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin slides safely past Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila on Derek Jeter's seventh-inning sacrifice fly in their opening day baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, March 31, 2011 in New York.

Kathy Willens, Associated Press

NEW YORK — The New York Yankees are perfect in the Bronx in March.

Curtis Granderson snapped a seventh-inning tie with a homer against his former team and Mark Teixeira hit a three-run drive off Justin Verlander, giving the Yankees a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in the earliest game ever played at Yankee Stadium — and, Brrrr, it felt like it.

"It was freezing," Derek Jeter said. "It was not a lot of fun with the field conditions. You give a lot of credit to the fans because they were pretty vocal the whole game."

Jeter had a sacrifice fly in the seventh using his new stride-less swing on a dreary, 42-degree day that felt much colder in the strong wind. CC Sabathia pitched six gritty innings and the bullpen was perfect with Mariano Rivera, wearing his socks high for perhaps the first time, earned his first save and 560th of his career in front of a crowd of 48,226, many of whom found their way indoors much earlier than the ninth.

"Their bullpen and the long ball is what did us in today," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I thought it was actually a decent game for the conditions. It was pretty rough."

Sidelined with a strained side since March 22, Granderson made two remarkable catches and homered for the third straight opener — off a lefty, no less. He connected against former Yankee Phil Coke (0-1) as New York embarked on its first full season without George Steinbrenner as owner since 1973.

"It was great — except for the weather," said Granderson, who arrived in New York around 11 p.m. Wednesday after playing in a rehabilitation game with minor leaguers in Tampa, Fla., earlier in the day.

With the flags above the lights in right field whipping toward the foul pole, Teixeira connected off Verlander in the third inning. A .235 hitter in April, the first baseman didn't get his first hit last season until his fifth game.

"I've been petitioning the league to start in March for years. "Finally they let us start in March because everybody knows my Aprils," Teixeira said. "It's great to start this way. ... Last year was awful, it was embarrassing."

Slimmed down by 25 pounds and healthy after having surgery on his right knee this winter, Sabathia gave up six hits and three runs — two earned. Starting on opening day in each of his three seasons with New York, Sabathia struck out seven and walked two.

Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano, the AL saves leader for Tampa Bay last year, and Rivera pitched perfect innings and the Yankees retired the last 10 overall. Chamberlain (1-0) got the win.

"That's the way we drew it up," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said with a smile.

Russell Martin had a hit, stole a base and scored twice in his Yankees debut.

"He had an outstanding day," Girardi said. "He's the one that got it started."

Verlander was making his fourth straight opening day start, most for the Tigers since Jack Morris went 10 in a row. He was hoping to get off to a quick start to his season after going 1-2 with a 5.29 ERA last year in April before finishing 18-9, and he altered his offseason workout to help accomplish that.

"Obviously, coming out of the spring that I had, this is not the results that I wanted," said Verlander, who had a 0.96 ERA this spring.

Pitching in short sleeves, the right-hander reached 97 mph on the radar gun in the first, but walked Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez before striking out Robinson Cano with his 31st pitch of the inning.

"I had trouble feeling the ball. My fingers were cold," Verlander said.

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