CC Sabathia's return to the Yankees' rotation brought back glimpses of his old effectiveness, even if he doesn't have his old velocity. While the big left-hander began his 16th Major League season by holding down Detroit's formidable offense for six-plus innings, the Yankees spoiled Mike Pelfrey's Tigers debut with six runs over 3 2/3 innings for an 8-4 New York win Saturday afternoon.
The 31-degree first-pitch temperature was the lowest for a game at Comerica Park, but it made little difference for Sabathia, making his first start for the Yankees since leaving the team at the end of the regular season to undergo alcohol rehab. The 35-year-old southpaw retired the Tigers in order the first time through with a nasty changeup and solid command.
"He cuts the ball, he sinks the ball -- nothing seems to be straight, and he doesn't seem to ever give in," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Part of that was the weather, but I think part of it was by design. He's not going to give in to guys. He will end up walking them and going after the next guy and try to get a double play."
Though James McCann's two-run single broke up the no-hit and shutout bids, making Sabathia pay for walking the bases loaded, the lefty persisted until Jose Iglesias' single chased him in the seventh. The quality start was a pleasant surprise for the Yankees after Sabathia struggled through much of Spring Training. By contrast, Pelfrey was solid through most of his spring, including three perfect innings against the Yankees on March 1 in Tampa, Fla. He never had his command Saturday, and New York took advantage for eight hits, capped by Jacoby Ellsbury's three-run triple in the fourth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Rest is the best: Yankees manager Joe Girardi heard some criticism after resting Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Alex Rodriguez in the opener, but those forward-looking moves paid dividends Saturday. Rodriguez hit career homer No. 688 in the first inning, Beltran had two hits including a two-run homer in the fifth, and McCann contributed two hits and a walk, scoring three runs.
Big Pelf pummeled: Though Pelfrey walked only one, he struggled to locate his pitches, falling behind several Yankees before giving up hits. He couldn't finish off Rodriguez in the first, running the count full before Rodriguez lined a ball over the fence in left-center, then he gave up a one-out walk to McCann that started a four-run fourth-inning rally. Pelfrey fell behind on 2-0 and 3-0 counts to five of 19 batters. More >
Other than BBs, CC A-OK: Sabathia picked up where he left off last season, when he had a 2.17 ERA in his final five starts. Sabathia retired the first nine in order but ran into trouble the second time through the lineup, walking three and allowing a pair of hits in Detroit's two-run fourth. Justin Upton's check-swing double play ball back to the mound helped Sabathia out of trouble in the fifth, and he became the first Yanks starter to complete six innings this year.More >
McCann comes through: The Tigers' streak of throwing out baserunners without allowing a steal finally ended Saturday when Brett Gardner swiped second base in the sixth with the Yanks up, 8-2. McCann threw out Gardner in the first trying to steal, preventing an extra run on the Rodriguez homer that followed.
QUOTABLE "I'm a firm believer that this game's all about execution and making pitches, and I didn't do that, so I got my butt whipped. That's what happens." -- Pelfrey
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Starlin Castro had a two-run double in the second and a single in the sixth, giving him 1,000 career hits. At 26 years and 16 days, Castro became the fifth-youngest player to reach 1,000 hits in the past three decades, joining Miguel Cabrera (25 years, 142 days), Roberto Alomar (25 years, 189 days), Ken Griffey Jr. (25 years, 268 days) and Rodriguez (25 years, 282 days). More >
The 31-degree first-pitch temperature marked the coldest game in Comerica Park history. The previous record was also a Tigers-Yankees matchup. That contest on April 23, 2015, had a 33-degree temperature at first pitch. More >
AUSMUS EJECTED Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was ejected for the first time this season, and the eighth time in his career, arguing balls and strikes with plate umpire Paul Emmel in the fifth. Emmel ejected him from the dugout in the middle of Castro's at-bat against Buck Farmer following Beltran's two-run homer. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees:Masahiro Tanaka (0-0, 3.18) will make his second start of the season and first road start Sunday, as the Yankees complete their weekend series in Detroit at 8:10 p.m. ET on ESPN. Tanaka took a no-decision Opening Day vs. the Astros, allowing two runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Tigers:Justin Verlander, who tossed six innings of three-run ball on Opening Day at Miami, will try to earn his first win over the Yankees since 2012 when he takes the mound on his regular four days' rest. Verlander is winless in his last four regular-season meetings with the Yanks, allowing six runs on 10 hits over 6 2/3 innings in the Bronx last June.