While the final score was lopsided, this was actually a tense, tight one for six innings. Lee and former teammate and fellow Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia squared off in a pitchers' duel that lived up to the hype.
Lee (1-2) went six innings, allowing just a run on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts. He ran his pitch count up while working out of some early jams, but the only major damage came when Jorge Posada hit a solo homer off him in the fifth.
This was major progress for Lee, who was battered to the tune of 11 runs in his first 10 innings of work this season and had already been compared to his 2008 self ad nauseum.
"I'm not comparing myself to last year," said Lee, who went 22-3 in 2008 and started the last All-Star Game in the old Yankee Stadium. "But I feel I'm locating my pitches the way I expect of myself."
Lee and Sabathia had similar outings, in that they tamed the opposition but needed a lot of pitches to do so. Lee needed 115 pitches to get through six innings, and Sabathia burned 122 pitches to get through 5 2/3.
"Both teams put up tough at-bats," manager Eric Wedge said. "And Cliff and CC were up to the task."
|According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two teams in Major League history have suffered worse losses when opening a new park than the Yankees did with Thursday's 10-2 loss to the Indians.|
|1. U.S. Cellular Field (1991) -- Tigers 16, White Sox 0|
|2. Great American Ball Park (2003) -- Pirates 10, Reds 1|
Sabathia, the Yankees' $161 million man, was effective against the team that traded him to the Brewers last summer. He went 5 2/3 innings, allowing a run on five hits with five walks and four strikeouts. The Indians' only run off Sabathia came when Kelly Shoppach ripped an RBI double in the fourth.
But while the Indians didn't have much in the way of runs to show for their efforts, their basic game plan had paid off. Knowing Sabathia's emotional tendencies, they wanted to wait him out, see what pitches he had working for him and get him out of the game as early as possible. By the end of the sixth, with the score knotted at 1, he was gone.
"You don't want to get CC late in the game," Victor Martinez said. "We wanted to get him out early, so I think we did a really good job of that."
And in the seventh, they exploded against the Yankees' 'pen.
Mark DeRosa drew a leadoff walk off Jose Veras, and Martinez followed with a double. Jhonny Peralta's double to right brought both runners home and knocked Veras out of the game. In came Damaso Marte, who immediately plunked Shin-Soo Choo with a pitch. When Ben Francisco reached on a sacrifice bunt, the Indians had loaded the bases.
Shoppach struck again -- this time with a run-scoring single to the right side. One out later, Trevor Crowe drew a bases-loaded walk to bring in another run and make it 5-1. And if there was any doubt over whether this big inning would be enough to put the Tribe ahead for good, Sizemore erased it with the first grand slam in the stadium's history, making it 9-1. And then, for good measure, Martinez tacked on a solo shot.
With that inning, the Indians proved they sure know how to spoil a party.
"Guys did a good job of pushing it on down the line," Wedge said. "We had our guys really fighting through some at-bats, and it paid off right there."
The bat Sizemore used to smack his slam will now have its place in Cooperstown, N.Y. A representative from the National Baseball Hall of Fame got the bat from Sizemore after the game.
But Sizemore and his teammates, who have won back-to-back games for the first time this season, didn't care about such pomp and circumstance nearly as much as they did about the most basic result of this historic day.
"Just getting the win is big for us," Sizemore said. "I'm glad we came out and played well."