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Yankees defeat Oakland, 5-3

April 21, 2009 7:33:44 PM PDT
Johnny Damon hit the only home run in the first night game at the new Yankee Stadium and Andy Pettitte pitched New York to a 5-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday.Brett Gardner came through with a sensational catch and a two-run single, helping the Yankees beat punchless Oakland in their latest home game with empty rows of premium seats wrapped around the infield.

The first four games at the $1.5 billion palace between New York and Cleveland featured a record 20 homers, leading some to start calling the place Coors Field East and criticize it for being a bandbox.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team probably will commission more tests to try to determine why balls have been flying out at such an incredible pace.

Damon hit the lone long ball Tuesday night, however, a no-doubter into the second deck in right field that would have left almost any park on any night.

The sixth-inning shot off Andrew Bailey gave the Yankees a 5-2 lead, and they held on behind Brian Bruney and Mariano Rivera before a crowd of 42,065.

It was the 57th time Rivera has saved a win for Pettitte, tying Oakland Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley and starter Bob Welch for the highest total in major league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Kurt Suzuki went 4-for-4 for the A's, who fell to 5-8 - their worst 13-game start since opening 3-10 in 2001. Their offense might have had something to do with the power outage, too.

Oakland's .304 slugging percentage coming in was 33 points lower than any other big league team. The A's have a major league-low three homers, and they've gone six straight games without one.

Still, the 21 combined homers broke a record for the first five games at a major league ballpark. There were 20 hit at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park in 2003, according to Elias.

Fifteen of the 21 here have been hit to right field.

Pettitte (2-0) allowed two runs and nine hits in seven innings, with no walks or strikeouts. He has gone at least seven innings in each of his three starts.

A chance to pitch in the new park was a big reason Pettitte returned this season for a $5.5 million, one-year contract. He was 95-42 at the original Yankee Stadium, winning the finale against Baltimore in September.

Bruney retired 22 batters in a row before Jack Cust singled with two outs in the eighth and scored on Mark Ellis' double, trimming it to 5-3. Eric Chavez lined out to second, ending the inning.

Rivera worked around Suzuki's leadoff single in the ninth for his fourth save.

There was a nip in the soup-thick air on a 54-degree night, which felt more like a Cape Cod fog than spring in the Bronx.

A leadoff walk to Nick Swisher started New York's four-run second inning.

Swisher advanced to third on Hideki Matsui's double off Dana Eveland (0-1), and with one out Gardner grounded a two-run single through a drawn-in infield, under the glove of a diving Ellis at second base.

Derek Jeter lined a single off Ellis' glove - a ball that probably should have been caught. Damon added an RBI single but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Mark Teixeira's broken-bat single made it 4-0.

Gardner also made an outstanding grab in deep center to rob ex-Yankee Jason Giambi of a run-scoring extra-base hit in the first. After spending the past seven seasons in New York, Giambi couldn't hold back a big smile as he stepped into the batter's box and greeted catcher Jorge Posada.

Once again, the Legends Field seats in the first nine rows surrounding the infield were more than half-empty at game time. Only 64 of the 146 first-row seats priced at $2,500 as part of season tickets and $2,625 individually were occupied in the bottom of the second inning. Sections 11 and 29, which each contain 90 seats priced mostly at $500 ($1,000 in the first row), were entirely empty.

On StubHub on Monday night, $600 seats behind the first base infield dirt in Section 14B, row 3 were available for $275 apiece, and $850 seats behind the Yankees dugout in Section 16, row 9 were being sold for $375 apiece.

Field level seats between the bases, which sell for $325 as part of season plans and $375 individually, appeared to be 60-70 percent empty. Seats in Section 122, Row 21 that originally sold for $325 were available Monday for $125 on StubHub.

Also, Section 214b in the second deck was almost empty, though sections around it were filled. There were only two fans in the two rows of $125 Bleacher Cafe seats above Monument Park in center field.

Notes: Oakland did not hit a home run while going 1-5 against the Yankees last season. ... A's starters are 1-6, the fewest wins in the majors. ... Damon's homer is the only run allowed by Bailey in 10 1-3 innings this season.


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