On the Yankees 111th opening day they lost 8 2 to their old rivals the Boston Red Sox in front of a sold out crowd of 49 514 at Yankee Stadium and there were few signs that things will get much better until their star players start trickling back from the disabled list.
But even with all the anxiety over the Yankees offense since last year s potent lineup fell to pieces through injuries and free agency the one thing the team felt it could depend on was excellent pitching especially at the top of the starting rotation.
So it was disheartening for the home fans to see C. C. Sabathia the staff ace who is coming off elbow surgery in the fall surrender four runs on eight hits in only five innings of work. And the Yankees patchwork lineup had little hope of coming back against Jon Lester and the Red Sox bullpen.
The pregame introductions were more subdued than usual in part because of a somber tribute to the victims and first responders in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Conn. last year.
Before that several of the newest Yankees including Kevin Youkilis Vernon Wells Lyle Overbay Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch were introduced for the first time.
There was no Derek Jeter to excite the fans and although the star third baseman Alex Rodriguez sat in the dugout for much of the game he was not introduced to the fans.
At the theater when a star actor is absent from that day s performance an insert announcing the changes to the cast is included in Playbill. Baseball doesn t do that but playing the role of Jeter on Monday was Eduardo Nunez and the understudy for Curtis Granderson was Wells.
There was more.
Jayson Nix was at third base in place of Youkilis who started at first base because the lefty Overbay signed only last week wasn t going to be in the starting lineup against Lester and so on. Youkilis was signed to a one year $12 million contract in the off season to replace Rodriguez who is on the disabled list with a hip injury. Wells was acquired in a trade from the Angels on March 26.
Rodriguez who did not spend even one day at spring training sent a loud message that he was still a part of the team when he showed up at the stadium Monday morning and sat in the dugout for parts of the game.
Youkilis who was batting cleanup in Rodriguez s old spot helped get the Yankees on the scoreboard with a leadoff double in the fourth inning with the Yankees already trailing 4 0. Wells followed with a walk and one out later Ichiro Suzuki lifted a floater over the top of the infield to load the bases.
That brought up Nix who had three previous home runs in his career against Lester with the bases loaded. Nix took a full count fastball at the knees for strike three but Francisco Cervelli saved the inning by lashing a double down the left field line.
The ball appeared to land right on the line and rolled into foul territory and Youkilis and Wells scored standing up. Cervelli who spent virtually all of last year in the minor leagues pumped his fist after he rounded first base with a two run single that halved Boston s lead.
The Red Sox scored all their runs off Sabathia in the second inning after a Will Middlebrooks groundout. Jarrod Saltalamacchia walked and went to second on an infield hit by Jonny Gomes. Sabathia then walked the rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. to load the bases and shortstop Jose Iglesias hit a bouncer past the reach of Nunez at short scoring Saltalamacchia.
Jacoby Ellsbury then hit a bouncer to Youkilis at first and he threw home to Cervelli to get Gomes on the forceout. But Shane Victorino one of the Red Sox new additions ripped a single to left scoring Bradley and Iglesias as Boston went up 3 0.
Sabathia wasn t out of trouble yet. Dustin Pedroia singled to right pushing home Ellsbury.
Trailing 5 2 the Yankees had a chance to cut into the lead in the bottom of the seventh with runners at first and second and none out against Boston s bullpen. But they couldn t score as Nunez Robinson Cano and Youkilis all struck out and the stadium fell into an eerie silence somewhat reminiscent of one of the final game here last year when Jeter broke his ankle.
That was in the 12th inning of Game 1 of the American League Championship Series more than five months ago. The Yankees still have not won a game since.