With Yanks' fifth homer, Jeter wins it
Eighth-inning long ball sets up first victory at new Stadium
NEW YORK -- The Yankees called upon a familiar script to log the first victory at the new Yankee Stadium on Friday, exhibiting that the more things change, the more they can stay the same.
Five Bronx Bombers peppered the right-field porch with home runs, including a game-winning shot by -- who else? -- captain Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera locked down the save as the Yankees defeated the Indians, 6-5, in the new ballpark's first sample of winning baseball.
For a man who would know, Jeter said that the sensation of cracking a decisive hit in the late innings seems to have translated authentically across 161st Street.
"Pretty much," Jeter said. "It's the same dimensions -- it's the same field. It's a little different with the stands, but it felt about the same."
Jeter's solo drive came with two outs in the eighth off Cleveland reliever Jensen Lewis, earning him a curtain call from the paid crowd of 45,101. Jeter shuffled when asked if the historic homer was fitting, but for the Yankees, there's comfort in knowing the captain can answer the call at a new address.
"He's come up in a lot of big situations and gotten some hits," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's the type of player he's been his whole career. It's great. He's been a big part of this organization -- Derek has been the face. It's a great job, and it's fitting."
As Jeter returned to the dugout, first baseman Mark Teixeira grinned and said he offered these words of wisdom to the shortstop: "You're a great player."
"I love it," Teixeira said. "If anyone is going to hit a game-winning home run for the first win at the new Stadium, it's going to be Derek."
In Yankee Stadium's opener on Thursday, fans spilled to the extra-wide concourses early when the home team's bullpen struggled in a nine-run seventh inning. But a more boisterous matinee crowd hung around for the final act in the second game, given a better show.
Damon and Teixeira belted the first back-to-back home runs at the new Cathedral, clubbing consecutive shots to right field in the third inning off Indians starter Anthony Reyes.
Melky Cabrera followed suit with a fourth-inning blast off Reyes -- the last scoring against Reyes in his five-inning, three-run outing -- and Robinson Cano joined the party by greeting lefty Zach Johnson with a solo home run to lead off the sixth, becoming the first player to reach the second deck.
"I thought it jumped pretty well in the old Stadium," Teixeira said. "If you get the ball in the air, it's just going to keep going to right. It's 314 [feet] down the line and doesn't go out real quick. The whole porch is short."
The five home runs were the most in a game by the Yankees since Aug. 1, 2007, against the White Sox, and they needed them, as the lineup went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
"The good thing is, if you keep putting runners on base, you're going to score runs," Girardi said. "That's the bottom line. You're going to score runs, and that's why you talk about on-base percentage. We scored just enough to win today, and that's the important thing."
Trailing by one, the Yankees tied the game in the seventh, starting the frame as Johnny Damon worked a walk to greet reliever Vinnie Chulk. Later admitting he was still thinking about his home run, Teixeira jumped at a changeup low and away and hit a weak squibber back to the mound.
It proved fortunate, though, as Chulk's throw sailed up the right-field line, allowing Damon to slide home safely all the way from first base. Indirectly, the right-field porch had contributed again.
"It can get you a little pull-happy," Teixeira said. "Even though it's there, in the front of your mind, you've got to tell yourself not to pull because you'll get yourself in bad habits. When you get one of those, you think, 'OK, let me hook another one out there.'"
The support took Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain off the hook. Making his second start of the season, Chamberlain struggled with command issues, allowing five runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked five, threw a wild pitch and struck out four, throwing 46 of his 93 pitches for strikes.
"I'm just yanking balls to my glove side," Chamberlain said. "I got a lot of ground-ball outs, which is a positive. The ball wasn't up as much, but they did get some hits when the ball was up. There's positives that you take out of it, but that's the thing for me -- I've got to make sure of my glove side and keep my mechanics good."
Chamberlain served up a solo home run to Mark DeRosa and watched as the Indians repeatedly took advantage of Damon's throwing arm in left field, with Ben Francisco lining an RBI single in the fourth inning before Chamberlain's outing came unhinged in a three-run fifth.
No. 9 hitter Asdrubal Cabrera worked a four-pitch walk, Grady Sizemore singled and DeRosa stroked a run-scoring single to left, tying the game. Victor Martinez followed with a sacrifice fly, scoring Cabrera as DeRosa tagged up on Damon. Ryan Garko doubled off the left-field wall to drive in Cleveland's fifth run.
"He seemed to have a problem with the ninth hitter, and that leads to trouble," Girardi said. "He was not as sharp as he was in Kansas City [on Sunday]. There's no rhyme or reason, but I know he can pitch better than that."
But after the relief corps let down CC Sabathia in the new Stadium's opener, New York's bullpen atoned by locking down the second game for Chamberlain. Phil Coke recorded four outs around a hit, Jonathan Albaladejo and Brian Bruney pitched perfect frames and "Enter Sandman" played for the first time in a save situation, as Rivera jogged out of the relocated bullpen in right field for the save.
Not that it came breezily. This one was a nail-biter for Rivera, who allowed two one-out singles to put the tying run 180 feet away. But with the shadows creeping past home plate and toward the mound, Rivera put an end to the afternoon, fanning Sizemore and catching DeRosa looking at a third strike for the final out.
"It was great," said Rivera, who converted his third save in three chances. "There was good adrenaline, good everything. It was close, but we won the game. That's the most important thing."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.