NEW YORK -- For starters, the pride of the Yankees was that they had won 11 straight season openers at home, a streak dating back to 1986.
No more. The Red Sox won 8-2, ushering in the John Farrell era with a victory.
It helped, of course, that the Yankees ran out a lineup that could have been borrowed from the NYPD’s nearby 44th Precinct house. No Jeter, Teixeira, A-Rod or Granderson. Pinstripes have seldom looked so ill-fitting.
There was one familiar face that stood between the Red Sox and an Opening Day win Monday afternoon, recognizable even without the beard he sported while in Boston.
Former Sox favorite Kevin Youkilis, who a year ago at this time never imagined that his run in Boston would end so abruptly, came to the plate in the seventh inning with two on, two out and the Bombers trailing by three runs.
Youkilis had already doubled and scored the Yankees’ first run, and now here he was facing Andrew Bailey, making his debut as Sox setup man after the closer’s job was stripped from him and awarded to Joel Hanrahan.
The sellout Yankee Stadium crowd of 49,514, which already had showed no shame in mimicking the “Yooouuuk” cheer popularized in Boston, was primed to make a place for Youkilis in Yankee hagiography if he delivered against Bailey.
Instead, the moment belonged to Bailey, who blew a 95 mph fastball past Youkilis to put down the threat, ensure a win for Jon Lester and Farrell, save the headlines for rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. and highlight what promises to be a strength of the 2013 Sox -- the bullpen.
Five Red Sox relievers combined to shut out the Yankees over the last four innings, including Hanrahan. Andrew Miller walked the first two batters he faced in the seventh, Francisco Cervelli and Brett Gardner, before he was paid a visit by pitching coach Juan Nieves, who talks to Farrell. That’s an improvement over the relationship that existed between last year’s pitching coach, Bob McClure, and the guy whose name (Bobby Valentine) David Ortiz does not utter, Ortiz instead referring to “our manager last year.”
Whatever Nieves said to Miller must have taken, because the left-hander regrouped and struck out Eduardo Nunez on three pitches, the last a 98 mph fastball watched by Derek Jeter's replacement, then blew a 97 mph fastball past Robinson Cano, the one certified superstar still healthy enough to appear on Joe Girardi’s lineup card.
By the time Hanrahan entered in the ninth, the pressure was off, the Sox having tacked on three runs against Joba Chamberlain, two runs scoring on Jacoby Ellsbury’s infield hit -- look at Jonny Gomes streak around the bases -- and another on a single by Shane Victorino.
Victorino had delivered a two-run single in Boston’s four-run, second-inning uprising against Yankees ace CC Sabathia, a rally in which Bradley served as catalyst. Not the stuff of script writers, but a great baseball at-bat in which Bradley worked a walk against CC after falling behind 0-and-2. That loaded the bases with one out, and Bradley then wreaked more havoc when he hustled to second to beat the force on what was scored an infield hit by Jose Iglesias.
A run scored on the play, Victorino made it 3-0 and Dustin Pedroia singled home a fourth run off Sabathia, who is a great pitcher but might want to rethink this Opening Day business. He has pitched five openers for the Bombers and won one of them, posting a combined 7.42 ERA.
Lester, meanwhile, succeeded in his third try and became the first Sox lefty to win an opener since Gary Peters in 1970. He ran into trouble in the fourth, when the Yankees scored twice on Cervelli's bases-loaded single, but got out of further trouble when Brett Gardner lined to right.
Lester also profited from a terrific catch in the third by Bradley, who took away extra bases from Cano by racing back to the track in left then turning in time to make a twisting grab.