Pettitte, Yankees beat punchless A's

BY foxsports • April 22, 2009

All of a sudden, home runs were hard to come by at Yankee Stadium.

Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera had a lot to do with that.

Johnny Damon hit the only homer in the first night game at the fancy new ballpark and Pettitte pitched New York to a 5-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday.

"Everybody was talking about balls flying. If you make your pitches, balls don't fly out," Derek Jeter said. "I think everybody was overexaggerating after four games."

Brett Gardner came through with a sensational catch and a two-run single, helping the Yankees beat punchless Oakland in their latest home game with empty rows of premium blue seats wrapped around the infield.

The first four games at the $1.5 billion palace between New York and Cleveland featured a record 20 homers, leading some to start calling the place Coors Field East and criticize it for being a bandbox.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team probably will commission more tests to try to determine why balls had been sailing out at such an incredible pace.

"There wasn't much wind tunnel. I hit a couple balls that were pretty good and actually they went nowhere," said ex-Yankee Jason Giambi, now back with Oakland. "It played the same to me. I mean, there were some balls crushed, myself and Robby Cano. I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. It was a night game and really heavy mist."

Damon hit the lone long ball Tuesday night, a no-doubter into the second deck in right field that would have left almost any park on any night.

The sixth-inning shot off Andrew Bailey gave the Yankees a 5-2 lead, and they held on behind Brian Bruney and Rivera before a crowd of 42,065.

It was the 57th time Rivera has saved a win for Pettitte, tying Oakland Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley and starter Bob Welch for the highest total in major league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"I really didn't know about it," Pettitte said. "It's awesome."

Rivera offered the game ball to his longtime teammate, but Pettitte told him to keep it. He'd like the record-breaker instead.

"Defintely special," Rivera said. "The most important thing is that we won the game."

Kurt Suzuki went 4-for-4 for the A's, who fell to 5-8 - their worst 13-game start since opening 3-10 in 2001. Their offense might have had something to do with the power outage, too.

Oakland's .304 slugging percentage coming in was 33 points lower than any other big league team. The A's have a major league-low three homers, and they've gone six straight games without one.

Still, the 21 combined homers broke a record for the first five games at a big league stadium. There were 20 hit at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park in 2003, according to Elias.

Fifteen of the 21 here have been hit to right field.

"A lot was made out of the first few games we played here. But the last two games it's played like the old Yankee Stadium," manager Joe Girardi said.

Pettitte (2-0) allowed two runs and nine hits in seven innings, with no walks or strikeouts. He has gone at least seven innings in each of his three starts.

A chance to pitch in the new park was a big reason Pettitte returned this season for a $5.5 million, one-year contract. He was 95-42 at the original Yankee Stadium, winning the finale against Baltimore in September.

Bruney retired 22 batters in a row before Jack Cust singled with two outs in the eighth and scored on Mark Ellis' double, trimming it to 5-3. Eric Chavez lined out to second, ending the inning.

Rivera worked around Suzuki's leadoff single in the ninth for his fourth save.

There was a nip in the soup-thick air on a 54-degree night, which felt more like a Cape Cod fog than spring in the Bronx.

A leadoff walk to Nick Swisher started New York's four-run second inning.

Swisher advanced to third on Hideki Matsui's double off Dana Eveland (0-1), and with one out Gardner grounded a two-run single through a drawn-in infield, under the glove of a diving Ellis at second base.

Jeter lined a single off Ellis' glove - a ball that probably should have been caught. Damon added an RBI single but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Mark Teixeira's broken-bat single made it 4-0.

"It felt like every time I missed they either squared up or broke a bat or almost took my head off," Eveland said.

Gardner also made an outstanding grab in deep center to rob Giambi of a run-scoring extra-base hit in the first.

"He should have listened to the ovation and let it drop," Giambi joked.

After spending the past seven seasons in New York, Giambi received a warm ovation his first time up. He couldn't hold back a big smile as he stepped into the batter's box and greeted catcher Jorge Posada.


The series opener was rained out Monday night. ... Oakland didn't hit a home run while going 1-5 against the Yankees last season. ... A's starters are 1-6, the fewest wins in the majors. ... Damon's homer is the only run allowed by Bailey in 10 1-3 innings this season.

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