04/13/10 9:10 PM ET
Pettitte vintage in Yanks' home opener
Jeter, Johnson homer to back lefty after club receives rings
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
He knew the Hall of Famers would understand. If Pettitte was going to race through Tuesday's pregame ceremonies like he was double-parked, he most certainly had a good reason for it.
Shortly after doffing his cap to the stands, Pettitte pitched six innings of scoreless ball as the Yankees stowed their glittering souvenirs from 2009 and rung in their home schedule with a 7-5 victory over the Angels at Yankee Stadium.
"It almost puts more pressure on you than a World Series game, unless it's a Game 7 or a Game 6," Pettitte said. "This is a special day for our organization, for our fans and our team. You want to win it. You definitely put a lot of pressure on yourself out there to give us a good start."
That he did. Supported by home runs from Nick Johnson and Derek Jeter, Pettitte won his fourth career Yankees home opener, limiting the Bombers' foes from last year's American League Championship Series to five hits in six frames, walking three and striking out six.
Pettitte was especially stingy with last year's World Series MVP, Hideki Matsui, who received his ring in the conclusion of the pregame ceremony but otherwise left empty-handed in an 0-for-5 afternoon. Pettitte said that he knew how to separate Matsui the friend from Matsui the opponent.
"I realized the fans wanted to give him a chance to tip his hat, and I felt like he deserved it, so I stepped off the mound," Pettitte said. "That was another good moment for him. As soon as he steps in the box, you put your head down and try to make good pitches to him. Fortunately, I was able to."
Matsui's at-bat may have resulted in a strikeout, but what was truly impressive was the standing ovation the slugger received from a sellout crowd of 49,293 in the Bronx.
"I was very deeply moved by that moment," Matsui said. "It's something that I did not anticipate at all. It's something that I will remember forever."
The Yankees were on the board early, as Johnson slugged his first home run since slipping back into pinstripes, a first-inning shot to right field off Angels starter Ervin Santana -- New York's first run in a first inning all season.
Johnson has drawn a lot of attention for his high walk totals and an uncanny ability to get on base regularly, but playing his first game wearing home pinstripes since 2003, it was nice for him to remind fans that he can swing the bat, too.
"We've got a lot of guys who like to see a lot of pitches and make the pitcher work," Johnson said. "When you get a pitch, you try not to miss it. I don't think anyone is up there looking for a walk, but everyone has their own approach. You try to swing at strikes."
After Jeter belted a solo shot in the third and contributed a bases-loaded single off Santana's leg in the fourth, bringing home Robinson Cano, Pettitte had a healthy cushion to work with.
"We're playing well," Jeter said. "That's all you want to do is try to be consistent. But it all starts with pitching, and Andy once again went out there and pitched a great game."
Santana lasted 5 2/3 innings and was charged with five runs on eight hits, thanks to Alex Rodriguez's bases-loaded two-run single off Jason Bulger that eluded shortstop Erick Aybar's dive.
It all made nice theater for principal owner George M. Steinbrenner, who took in the game from a private suite while cradling his 2009 ring -- the first one issued by the team, presented to him by manager Joe Girardi and Jeter.
"That was one of the best parts of my day, going up and being able to give the ring to Mr. Steinbrenner, who has given me the opportunity to win three as a player and one as a manager," Girardi said. "I'm extremely grateful for everything that he's done in my life. It was a thrill to go up and see the smile on his face."
Jorge Posada added a seventh-inning double that was the 345th of his career, moving him past Mickey Mantle for seventh place on the Yankees' all-time list. That footnote was a nice addendum on an afternoon when Posada tucked away his fifth World Series ring, joining Jeter, Pettitte and Mariano Rivera as those who can fill a hand with hardware.
"I wear them for a while, and then I'm scared that I'm going to lose them," Posada said. "This is all about being on top. You look back at all the hard work and all the tough times. You can't take this away from us. I'm really happy that most of our team was there."
The Angels didn't reach the scoreboard until the top of the eighth inning, when Kendry Morales connected off reliever Chan Ho Park for his second home run of the season.
The Yankees added to their lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, answering Morales' homer with an RBI double by Posada and a run-scoring single by Curtis Granderson.
Bobby Abreu's ninth career grand slam in the ninth inning against David Robertson created an unexpected save situation for Rivera, who recorded the final two outs to help New York improve to 71-36-1 all-time in home openers.
More importantly, the Yankees have now won five of their first seven games against some pretty healthy competition, winning road series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park and the Rays at Tropicana Field. They're now off to a good start with their first visitors of the 2010 campaign.
But when the wins and losses begin blending into one, the true souvenirs the Yankees will hold from the afternoon in the Bronx came in handsome mahogany boxes, each one presented in an experience that lived completely up to billing.
"It's special, and it's what is going to keep this place going for years to come," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "Our fans have an opportunity to witness living history and stay in touch with the past while being in the present."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.