IAN HARRISON, Associated Press
TORONTO (AP) — With an 0-2 start now firmly in the rearview mirror, the New York Yankees are looking forward to heading home for what’s likely to be a memorable opener in the Bronx.
CC Sabathia pitched six innings for his first victory of the season, Brett Gardner hit a two-run home run and the Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-4 on Sunday afternoon, winning their first series of the season and evening their record at 3-3.
“It’s better than going home 0-6,” Sabathia said.
New York opens its home schedule on Monday afternoon against Baltimore, with former pitchers Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera scheduled to throw ceremonial first pitches to current shortstop Derek Jeter and retired catcher Jorge Posada.
Jeter has said 2014 will be his final season, making this his last opening day at Yankee Stadium.
“I think it will be awesome,” Sabathia said. “It’s going to be something special. To have Andy and Mo coming back, I think it will be a lot of fun.”
Sabathia (1-1) allowed four runs and seven hits, walked none and struck out six, bouncing back from Tuesday’s opening day loss at Houston, when he allowed six runs and eight hits, including two home runs, in six innings.
“He was down in the zone, his ball was sinking like it was supposed to, his changeup was good, his slider was good,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I was encouraged.”
The left-hander was taken deep again Sunday when Melky Cabrera connected in the first inning. The homer was Cabrera’s third of the season and third this series.
Maicer Izturis followed with an infield single but was erased on a fielder’s choice. Sabathia retired 16 of the next 17 hitters before running into trouble in the sixth.
Jose Bautista started Toronto’s two-out rally with a single, Edwin Encarnacion singled and Bautista scored when Dioner Navarro doubled. Erik Kratz followed with a two-run single to center, with Navarro scoring easily when Jacoby Ellsbury’s throw to the plate was off target.
“It just goes to show you that you can be rolling along and if you make a few mistakes, you can get hurt pretty quickly in this league,” Girardi said.
Kratz took second on Ellsbury’s throw, but was left stranded when Brett Lawrie flied out.
“I threw the fastball more, just worked it in and out,” Sabathia said. “That made the other pitches more effective.”
Adam Warren worked the seventh, Shawn Kelley pitched the eighth and David Robertson finished for his second save in as many chances.
The Yankees jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Toronto’s Drew Hutchison in the first with just one hit, taking advantage of two walks and a hit batter. Ellsbury collected his first RBI with a groundout and Kelly Johnson drove in two runs with a double.
“It took the pressure off, kind of let everybody breathe a little bit,” Johnson said of the early outburst.
Gardner hit New York’s first home run of the season, ending a five-game drought, with a two-run shot off Hutchison in the fourth.
“I don’t think anybody bet on that,” Gardner joked. “Good to get the first one out of the way. I’ve got a feeling we’ll hit a couple in New York.”
Hutchison (1-1) pitched 5 1-3 shutout innings to beat Tampa Bay on Tuesday, but couldn’t duplicate that success against the Yankees. He allowed six runs and six hits in 3 1-3 innings, walked three and struck out six.
“He has been off a little bit,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “Even down in Tampa the other night, he pitched a nice ball game but he wasn’t locating like he normally does.”
Jeter had two hits, moving into sole possession of eighth place on baseball’s career list. Jeter’s single to right in the fourth was the 3,320th hit of his career, breaking a tie with Paul Molitor.
“It’s special,” Jeter said. “I grew up watching Paul, I played against him briefly and I have a lot of respect for him and his career.”
Next on the list is Carl Yastrzemski, with 3,419.
New York’s Alfonso Soriano got his first hit of the season and snapped a 0 for 17 slump with a leadoff single in the fifth.
NOTES: New York starting pitchers did not issue a walk in 19 innings against Toronto. … Yankees C Francisco Cervelli took grounders at first base before the game in case he’s needed to fill in for injured 1B Mark Teixeira (right hamstring). … New York OF Carlos Beltran got the day off. … Toronto Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan threw out the first pitch.
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