But once Pavano left after the sixth, the Indians came up empty on the offensive front by stranding the loaded bases in the seventh, came up empty in the replay department when Posada's homer was upheld and came up empty on the defensive end in the eighth, when Shin-Soo Choo lost a ball in the sun and let it land for a three-run double for Cody Ransom.
All this served to spoil a day in which Pavano silenced his harshest critics.
"It's not about the critics," he said. "It's about winning ballgames. It wasn't about me. It was about the Indians."
The Indians initially had Pavano's back. Choo took Yankees starter A.J. Burnett deep on a second-inning solo shot, and Ryan Garko, getting his first career start in the outfield, made it a 3-0 game with a two-run blast in the fourth.
Pavano might have been tagged for nine runs in his Tribe debut in Arlington on April 8 and saddled with another loss in Kansas City last week, but he had no trouble defending that lead in this one. He commanded the ballgame for six innings, getting quick ground-ball outs when he needed them. The only damage off Pavano came in the fourth, when Derek Jeter doubled and Mark Teixeira singled him home with two outs.
"I thought [Pavano] pitched great, especially in this environment," manager Eric Wedge said. "He proved that he had thick skin and demonstrated some good focus out there."
Pavano really had to focus when the Yanks loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth. He had plunked Johnny Damon with a pitch and walked Teixeira. But when Wedge came out of the dugout, it wasn't to remove Pavano but rather to tell him this game was in his hands.
"I respect [Wedge] for that," Pavano said.
And Pavano made good on Wedge's trust when he got Nick Swisher to strike out to end the inning.
But that would be the 89th and last pitch Pavano would throw. With two lefties due up in the seventh, Wedge opted to turn to struggling reliever Rafael Perez.
As is the case with everything else that inning, that move didn't go well.
The inning began with the Tribe loading the bases on walks from Burnett with one out. The Yankees brought in reliever Jonathan Albaladejo, and Mark DeRosa grounded into a fielder's choice and Victor Martinez grounded out to end the threat.
"That was big," Wedge said. "We've got to at least push one more across there."
Wedge didn't want to push Pavano for another inning.
"That was enough," Wedge said of Pavano's six innings of work, "as hard as he had to work that final inning."
But Perez is still working to find himself, and that was clear when he surrendered a leadoff double to Robinson Cano and an RBI single to Hideki Matsui. Jensen Lewis relieved him and got Cody Ransom to hit into a fielder's choice. But Posada's two-run homer on a 1-1 pitch put the Yankees ahead for good.
The Indians asserted that a fan had interfered with the attempt of Trevor Crowe, who had been inserted as a pinch-runner for Garko earlier in the inning, to make a leaping catch of the ball. The umpires asserted that the fan first touched the ball beyond the plane of the wall.
Lewis, meanwhile, asserted that the whole thing wouldn't have happened if the ball didn't carry so well to right field. This was the second time in three games that he had been saddled with a loss as the result of a homer to right. Jeter took him deep in the eighth inning of Friday's 6-5 loss.
"It was a pop fly," Lewis said of Posada's homer. "Again, in any other ballpark in the country, it's an out. When it gets up in that jet stream, it just blows out. I'm definitely ready to leave here."
It was another element that did the Indians in an inning later. Rafael Betancourt let the Yanks load the bases, and Ransom hit a jam-job to left that snapped his bat at the handle. Choo initially had a bead on the ball, but then lost it in the sun. It landed near the left-field line, and all three runners scored on the double.
And so it was a frustrating finale to what had been a strong showing in the Bronx. The Indians outscored the Yanks, 40-19, but saw their relievers give up nine runs in 11 innings and came out only with a four-game split.