BOSTON — Marching into Fenway Park as baseball’s reigning champions, the New York Yankees seemed primed on opening night to remind the Boston Red Sox exactly why they ruled the world.
Not long after Pedro Martinez threw out the first pitch, consecutive home runs by Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson gave the Yankees a lead against Boston ace Josh Beckett. And when Brett Gardner swiped home plate in the fourth inning, completing a stunning double steal, the Yankees showed off the versatile side of their revamped lineup.
But the nature of this rivalry — especially in this park — is that it truly isn’t over ’til it’s over.CC Sabathia couldn’t hold a four-run lead and Posada couldn’t hold a Damaso Marte delivery in the seventh inning — a passed ball that scored the go-ahead run in Boston’s 9-7 victory Sunday.
“Any time you score seven runs and you have CC on the mound, you’ve gotta like your chances,” said shortstop Derek Jeter. “They battled.”
In the first Yankees-Red Sox opener at Fenway since 1985, 37,440 fans enjoyed a balmy night that saw their Red Sox score three runs apiece in the sixth and seventh innings.
After Sabathia blew a 5-1 lead, the Yanks went ahead, 7-5, in the seventh on an RBI groundout by Robinson Cano and an RBI single by Posada.
But Dustin Pedroia’s two-run homer off Chan Ho Park tied it again in the Red Sox’s half of the inning. Two batters later, Park yielded a double to Kevin Youkilis — his third extra-base hit of the game.
“It’s very similar to what I’ve experienced here before,” said Granderson. “It’s never over ’til it’s really over. You had a little bit of everything.”
With David Ortiz at bat, in came Marte, who immediately unleashed a wild pitch to put Youkilis on third. In the same at-bat, a high Marte pitch sailed on Posada, who had the ball squirt past him to the backstop, allowing Youkilis to score the tiebreaking run.
Pedroia delivered an RBI single in the eighth off Joba Chamberlain for the Red Sox’s final run.Boston’s offense took a hit this winter with the loss of Jason Bay to free agency, but because of their pitching and defense and a few key additions, manager Joe Girardi believed they were just as formidable as the club that started the year 8-0 against the Yanks last year.
“Defensively, I think they got stronger. They added speed. Adrian Beltre is a tremendous third baseman that has power. I think they’ve improved their club,” Girardi said. “And that makes our job that much harder.”
Girardi also revealed he got a phone call before the game from the author of the phrase, “It Ain’t Over til It’s Over,” — Yogi Berra. “I’ll be watching,” Berra told Girardi.
The back-to-back homers by Posada and Granderson marked the first time the Yankees had accomplished that feat on opening day since Dave Winfield and Steve Kemp did it in 1983.
And Gardner’s steal of home — giving the Yanks a 5-1 lead — was the first by a Yankee since A-Rod did it on July 31, 2004, also on the front end of a double steal.