Yanks set for grand home opener against Matsui, Angels

April 13, 2010

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The New York Yankees take the field at home for the first time since capturing their latest world championship this afternoon, when the team opens the second season of new Yankee Stadium against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who’ll have a very familiar face in the opposing lineup for Tuesday’s matchup.

The Yankees concluded the inaugural campaign of their palatial home venue on the highest of notes, a 7-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6 of last October’s Fall Classic which gave the Bronx Bombers their unprecedented 27th world title. Returning members of last year’s squad will receive their championship rings prior to the game, with Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford helping present the players their hardware.

One current Angel who played a huge part in New York’s championship run last year will also take part in the ring ceremony, as postseason hero Hideki Matsui makes his first-ever Yankee Stadium appearance in an enemy uniform. The veteran designated hitter was named MVP of the 2009 World Series after batting .615 (8-for-13) with three homers and eight RBI and knocking in six runs in the deciding Game 6.

“I hope everybody stands up and gives him a standing ovation, because he’s done a lot for this organization and he deserves it,” catcher Jorge Posada told the Yankees’ official site of Matsui.

Despite his heroics, the Yankees opted not to re-sign Matsui during the offseason and the 35-year-old inked a one-year, $6.5 million deal to serve as the Angels’ cleanup hitter. He’s made quite an impression so far with his new team, hitting .370 (10-for-27) with a pair of homers and five RBI through Anaheim’s first seven contests.

The Angels as a team haven’t been quite as successful as their new star in the early going. The reigning American League West champs, who fell in six games to the Yankees in last year’s League Championship Series, have lost five of six since beginning their 2010 schedule with a victory over Minnesota on April 5. The club’s latest defeat occurred on Sunday, a 9-2 setback to division- member Oakland in the finale of its season-opening homestand.

Anaheim held a 3-1 lead after six innings, but the Athletics struck for eight runs over the final three frames to claim the rubber match of the three-game set.

Angels starter Joe Saunders had been cruising along until giving up three straight hits to start the seventh, the last being a Mark Ellis double that brought the A’s within 3-2. Kevin Jepsen came on in relief and served up a two-run single to Eric Patterson that put Oakland in front to stay.

Saunders (0-2) was charged with four runs allowed on just four hits, including a solo homer by Adam Rosales in the top of the second, in six-plus innings of work.

“I felt good besides the home run,” Saunders said. “I threw the ball well. They were able to get well-placed hits in the seventh inning.”

Ex-Yankee Bobby Abreu and Juan Rivera each had solo homers for the Angels, with Abreu ending 2-for-4 on the day.

Anaheim will take its swings today off Andy Pettitte, with the longtime Yankee set to start a home opener for his fourth time in pinstripes. The decorated left-hander is 3-0 with a 3.00 earned run average in such previous assignments, and is coming off a very good season debut in Boston this past Wednesday.

Pettitte held the rival Red Sox to one run on six hits over six innings in that game, but left with the score tied at 1-1. The Yankees went on to win by a 3-1 count in 10 frames.

The 37-year-old struggled badly in three regular-season starts against Anaheim last year, losing two of those bouts and pitching to a substandard 7.88 ERA, but performed significantly better versus the Halos in the playoffs. Pettitte yielded three runs in a 6 1/3-inning no-decision in Game 3 of the ALCS, then won the series-clinching Game 6 at Yankee Stadium after firing 6 1/3 frames of one-run ball.

For his career, Pettitte is 12-10 with a 4.70 ERA over 28 regular-season encounters with the Angels.

He’ll be attempting to lead New York to a third straight win and fifth triumph in six games this afternoon. After CC Sabathia carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Saturday’s 10-0 rout of Tampa Bay, the Yankees received seven good innings out of A.J. Burnett in a 7-3 decision over the Rays in Sunday’s finale.

Burnett (1-0) surrendered just two runs, both of which came in the first inning, on six hits to notch his first win of 2010.

“He got into a good rhythm and he was outstanding the next six innings,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Burnett. “He gave up a couple of runs and didn’t turn it into a huge inning and gave us a chance.”

Posada gave the Yanks a 3-2 lead with a two-run homer in the top of the sixth, and Alex Rodriguez delivered a two-RBI double one inning later to extend the margin to 6-2. The All-Star third baseman finished 2-for-4 with a pair of two- baggers on the afternoon.

Rodriguez is a .227 (5-for-22) lifetime hitter with two home runs against Ervin Santana, who gets the call for Anaheim this afternoon and will be out to produce a better result than his first start of the year.

Santana took the loss last Wednesday against Minnesota after being reached for four runs in six innings of work. The 2008 AL All-Star gave up only five hits and a walk, but was hurt by a pair of homers.

The hard-throwing righty does own a 5-2 record against the Yankees with a 5.21 ERA in eight starts, not counting the postseason. Santana pitched four times in relief during last year’s ALCS and had a 1.59 ERA in 5 1/3 innings, while picking up the win by tossing a scoreless frame in Game 5.

Derek Jeter is the Yankee with the most success against Santana, as the star shortstop has a .435 average (10-for-23) and two home runs off the Angels’ hurler.

The Angels went just 1-3 at the new Yankee Stadium last year, but have won 10 of the last 16 overall non-playoff meetings between these teams.


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