Youkilis, Red Sox top Yankees 9-7 in season opener
BOSTON – The Red Sox stressed run prevention as they built their team for this season. Then it began and they won with run production.
Kevin Youkilis had three extra-base hits, Dustin Pedroia hit a two-run homer and three new starters had big nights with the bat as Boston rallied to beat the defending champion New York Yankees 9-7 in the major league opener Sunday night.
“We all have faith in ourselves,” said Youkilis, who scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball in the seventh inning. “It’s good to get a win opening night. It’s good for the city. It’s good for the fans. It’s good for the players. It’s good for everyone. … But it’s still just one game.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi had little doubt the Red Sox could hit.
“We expected them to score runs,” he said. “We know they have a very good offensive team. You look at the guys they brought in.”
The signings of outfielder Mike Cameron, third baseman Adrian Beltre and shortstop Marco Scutaro were part of what general manager Theo Epstein called the “run prevention” approach after a poor defensive season by the club. But that trio went a combined 5 for 9 with three RBIs.
“I think it’s great for them because there’s a lot of pressure here and it’s good to see them get the hits out of the way,” Youkilis said. “There’s no doubt they’re not just defensive (players) like everyone’s saying. These guys can play.”
Boston erased a 5-1 deficit against CC Sabathia in the first night opener in the history of 98-year-old Fenway Park.
“It fell definitely on my shoulders. I’m very disappointed,” Sabathia said. “I had a pretty good lead and I was trying to throw the ball over the plate a little too much.”
Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson hit back-to-back homers off Josh Beckett to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead in the second. It was 7-5 in the bottom of the seventh when Scutaro singled and Pedroia tied it with an opening-day homer for the second straight season.
Youkilis then doubled with two outs, went to third on Damaso Marte’s wild pitch and scored when the left-hander’s high pitch bounced off Posada’s glove.
“You don’t really want to give them runs,” Girardi said. “That’s the last thing you want to do to a club like this.”
Pedroia added an RBI single in the eighth.
Hideki Okajima pitched a scoreless inning to get the win and Jonathan Papelbon worked the ninth for the save.
Chan Ho Park recorded just two outs while taking the loss in his Yankees debut. The right-hander was charged with three runs and three hits.
Former Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez got a warm greeting when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The real starters didn’t do as well.
Sabathia gave up five runs and six hits over 5 1-3 innings in his second poor opening-day start since he joined New York for a $161 million, seven-year contract.
Beckett allowed five runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings. It was the worst of five opening-day starts for the right-hander, who had allowed just four runs in 22 2-3 innings in his previous four.
The long-term contract extension he’s expected to sign soon “never crossed my mind,” Beckett said. “I never established my curveball, at least not for strikes.”
Even two aging singers beloved by Red Sox fans had better nights.
Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith and a Boston-area resident, sang “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch.
Neil Diamond, whose “Sweet Caroline” is played at Fenway after the top of the eighth, then stepped onto the field along the right-field line to sing it in person. The Brooklyn native wore a blue Red Sox hat with a red “B” and a dark jacket with the words “KEEP THE DODGERS IN BROOKLYN” on the back.
The Red Sox were more concerned with the team from the Bronx.
The Yankees began the season as champions for the first time since they beat Kansas City 7-3 behind Roger Clemens in the 2001 opener. They finished that year in the World Series, but lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in seven games.
The last time the Red Sox and Yankees met in an opener was in 2005 following Boston’s first championship since 1918. New York won 9-2 with Randy Johnson beating David Wells – like Sabathia, a burly lefty.
Youkilis got the first hit off Sabathia, a leadoff double in the second, and scored on Beltre’s sacrifice fly. Youkilis then tripled in two runs in the sixth before Beltre’s RBI single tied it at 5.
The Yankees went ahead again before the Red Sox grabbed the lead, typical of past back-and-forth games between the two rivals.
“That was one of those games I guess I’ve got to learn that it’s going to be that way pretty much all year long,” said Cameron, who came over from Milwaukee.
The first eight batters of the game were retired before the Yankees, who led the AL last season with 244 homers, got two longballs in a row. Posada hit a liner off the right-field foul pole. Then Granderson sent a long drive into the center-field seats in his first at-bat as a Yankee.
New York went ahead 7-5 in the seventh on Robinson Cano’s RBI groundout and Posada’s run-scoring single.
NOTES: The back-to-back homers by Posada and Granderson were the first by the Yankees on opening day since Dave Winfield and Steve Kemp did it on April 5, 1983, at Seattle.
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