Yankees win home opener

Beat Toronto, 3-2
April 1, 2008 6:58:10 PM PDT
The final opener at Yankee Stadium ended like so many that came before - with a victory by the home team. Chien-Ming Wang shut down the Toronto Blue Jays for seven innings, making Joe Girardi a winner in his rain-delayed debut as Yankees manager and sending New York to a record-setting 3-2 victory Tuesday night.

After wet weather postponed the festivities Monday, the Yankees beat Roy Halladay (0-1) to win their major league-best 11th consecutive home opener. That snapped a tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who won 10 in a row from 1945-54.

Babe Ruth homered on the day the ballpark opened in 1923. With owner George Steinbrenner and his son, Hank, a Yankees general partner, watching from their suite above home plate, Melky Cabrera homered and made two outstanding catches in center field.

Alex Rodriguez scored on Hideki Matsui's grounder in the seventh, breaking a 2-all tie.

Joba Chamberlain struck out two in a hitless eighth to the delight of his polio-stricken father, Harlan, who attended the game and cheered from his motorized scooter.

Mariano Rivera worked a perfect ninth for the save and handed Girardi the souvenir ball from the final out. Girardi took over this season from his popular mentor, Joe Torre, who guided the Yankees to playoff appearances in all 12 years at the helm.

Set to move next year into a new $1.3 billion ballpark that's under construction next door, New York improved to 58-26 in Yankee Stadium openers. The club has won 16 of its past 17, and 22 of 25.

When the game became official after the fifth inning, the video board in right-center showed a tape of George Steinbrenner pulling a lever as the digital countdown of regular-season games remaining at Yankee Stadium flipped from 81 to 80.

It rained again Tuesday in New York, but the skies cleared about 75 minutes before gametime.

Reggie Jackson was escorted to the mound by fellow Hall of Famer Yogi Berra to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of a season that marks the 30th anniversary of New York's 1978 World Series championship.

A pair of Yankee Stadium staples were missing from the ballpark's 84th opener: longtime broadcaster Bobby Murcer and public-address announcer Bob Sheppard.

Murcer is regaining his strength following a brain biopsy last month. He had surgery in December 2006, four days after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

Sheppard wasn't behind the microphone because he's recuperating from an illness, and he was replaced by regular backup, Jim Hall. When captain Derek Jeter stepped to the plate, however, he was introduced by a recording of Sheppard's famous voice.

A hamstring injury prevented Wang from starting last year's opener, but his sinker was on against Toronto and he was helped by several fine defensive plays.

Girardi visited the mound with a runner on third and two outs in the seventh, then stayed with Wang (1-0). Rodriguez snared David Eckstein's grounder to third, ending the inning.

Coming off his third AL MVP award, Rodriguez hit a two-out double in the first inning to drive in Bobby Abreu from first base.

Frank Thomas and Lyle Overbay singled to start the second, and Marco Scutaro had an RBI groundout.

Scutaro drew a leadoff walk in the fifth, stole second and scored on Shannon Stewart's RBI groundout.

Cabrera homered leading off the sixth, a pop fly that barely cleared the 314-foot sign in the right-field corner to Halladay's chagrin. That snapped Cabrera's streak of 163 at-bats without a homer since Aug. 12 at Cleveland.

Cabrera also made two splendid catches in a row to end the fourth, and the sellout crowd of 55,112 chanted his name as he jogged off the field.


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