NEW YORK — Andy Pettitte was a rock on the mound in his latest gritty performance. Mariano Rivera jogged in from the bullpen to nail down a ninth-inning lead.
Following two straight duds to start the season, the banged-up New York Yankees finally looked like themselves Thursday night.
Pettitte pitched the Yankees to their first win of the year and Rivera made a successful return to the mound in New York’s 4-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
“I was waiting for 11 months,” said Rivera, who acknowledged feeling a little anxious before his first regular-season pitch since knee surgery. “There were a lot of emotions tonight, but you have to control that. You have to finish the game.”
Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli homered for the Yankees, providing some unexpected power to a depleted lineup missing the “sore four” — Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson.
All those All-Stars are on the disabled list, plus pitcher Phil Hughes, and without them New York dropped its first two games to the rival Red Sox.
“You don’t want to leave your home park going 0-3, that’s for sure,” manager Joe Girardi said. “So I thought it was pretty important.”
Lyle Overbay had a two-run single off Ryan Dempster (0-1), who struck out eight in his Boston debut but needed 101 pitches to get through five innings. The two-time All-Star signed a $26.5 million, two-year contract in December after spending last season with the Cubs and Rangers.
“Just got outpitched by the guy on the other side of the field,” Dempster said. “I made a lot of good pitches and a couple balls fell in. That was enough to win the game.”
Looking for their first season-opening sweep at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox were handcuffed by a pair of New York greats.
The 40-year-old Pettitte (1-0) tossed eight sharp innings on a 43-degree night and Rivera entered to a standing ovation from those left in the bundled-up crowd of 40,611 as the familiar chords of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blared over the Yankee Stadium speakers.
Baseball’s career saves leader, set to retire after this season, missed most of last year after tearing a knee ligament May 3 while shagging flies during batting practice in Kansas City.
Rivera issued a leadoff walk to Dustin Pedroia and gave up a one-out double to Jonny Gomes before Will Middlebrooks drove in a run with a groundout. But the right-hander threw a called third strike past rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. for his 609th save and first since April 30 last year at Baltimore.
“Obviously, I feel real secure and good about things whenever you see that guy come running in from the bullpen in the ninth inning,” Pettitte said. “It’s special, and it will be special for me watching him this year and knowing this is it. After this, he won’t be closing games for us anymore, so I’ll savor it as much as I can.”
By appearing in his 19th Yankees season, Rivera broke a tie with Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Jeter to set the franchise mark. Jeter will match Rivera again when the captain makes his season debut.
It was the 69th time Rivera has saved a regular-season win by Pettitte, a major league record. The two hadn’t teamed up since the 2010 playoffs against Minnesota.
“These two have been doing it a long time together,” Girardi said. “I’ve caught both of them and I’ve managed both of them, but as a fan it’s really kind of neat to see.”
With fans chanting his name, Pettitte got through the eighth inning and pumped his fist before heading into the dugout for good.
Backed by three double plays — one that he started himself — Pettitte allowed one run and eight hits. He threw an efficient 94 pitches and gave New York’s staff a huge boost after Hiroki Kuroda was pulled in the second inning Wednesday night with a bruised middle finger.
Pettitte, beginning his 15th season with the Yankees, earned his 246th career win and improved to 19-10 in 38 starts against Boston. He missed almost three months last season with a broken left ankle and finished 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA.
Pettitte has practically made a career of righting the ship for the Yankees. The team said he is 18-3 with an ERA below 3.00 in 27 starts with New York trying to avoid a regular-season sweep, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.
He was working on a five-hit shutout when Middlebrooks smacked a two-out single in the seventh and scored on a double by Bradley. David Ross made a bid for a tying homer with a long drive to left-center that was caught just in front of the fence, near the 399-foot sign.
“He gave it a ride and Gardner makes a heck of a catch against the wall,” Boston manager John Farrell said.
Cervelli greeted Clayton Mortensen with a leadoff homer in the seventh that made it 4-1.
Gardner and Cervelli hit their first homers since going back-to-back off Baltimore’s Tommy Hunter on Sept. 6, 2011. Neither player spent much time on the active big league roster last season.
Eduardo Nunez, often a defensive liability, turned three double plays at shortstop and made a leaping grab to rob Shane Victorino of a leadoff hit in the fourth. Nunez also had two hits, including a key double.
Victorino tried to score from second base on a wild pitch in the first inning when Pettitte didn’t cover the plate. Cervelli was slow and a little nonchalant in retrieving the ball, then scrambled back in time to tag Victorino as both players dove headfirst and banged into each other.
Victorino jammed two fingers on his throwing hand but remained in the game. He said he was fine, and Cervelli apologized to him the next time up.
ORIOLES 6, RAYS 3
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Chris Davis homered for the third straight day and drove in four runs Thursday to lead the Baltimore Orioles past the Tampa Bay Rays.
Davis went 7 of 11 with three homers, three doubles and a major league-leading 11 RBIs in helping the Orioles win two of three games in the season-opening series. He drove in four for the second day in a row, hitting a two-run homer in the second inning and a two-run double that broke a 2-2 tie against Roberto Hernandez (0-1) in the sixth.
Adam Jones had three more hits, giving him seven in a series that saw the three-four-five spots in Baltimore’s lineup go 17 for 37 with four homers, six doubles, 13 runs scored and 15 RBIs.
Miguel Gonzalez (1-0) allowed two runs and four hits over 6 1/3 innings.
TWINS 8, TIGERS 2
MINNEAPOLIS — Mike Pelfrey pitched into the sixth inning in his Minnesota debut, Josh Willingham and Trevor Plouffe hit home runs and the Twins took the season-opening series from the Detroit Tigers.
Pelfrey (1-0) wasn’t charged with any earned runs, taking the mound less than a year after Tommy John surgery. The former New York Mets first-round draft pick was given a 3-2 lead when Willingham and Plouffe went deep against Tigers starter Rick Porcello (0-1).
Four relievers kept the Twins in front for four innings, until they broke the game open with a five-run eighth against Brayan Villarreal. Tigers relievers gave up 10 runs over 10 innings in these three games.
Miguel Cabrera got another RBI, his fourth of the year, but the Tigers had another quiet afternoon at the plate.
ROYALS 3, WHITE SOX 1
CHICAGO — Jeremy Guthrie struck out nine and gave up one run in six innings, and the Kansas City Royals snapped a two-game losing streak to start the season, beating the Chicago White Sox.
Guthrie (1-0) scattered five hits and walked one for Kansas City, which took its first lead of the season with three runs in the fifth inning and made it stick. Kansas City reliever Greg Holland worked the ninth for his first save.
Chicago right-hander Gavin Floyd (0-1) gave up four hits and two runs in six innings. He walked one and struck out five.
Gordon Beckham was 4 for 4 for Chicago, matching a career high set on May 12, 2012, at Minnesota.
ATHLETICS 8, MARINERS 2
OAKLAND, Calif. — Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes gave Brandon Maurer a rude welcome to the big leagues by hitting two-run homers off the Seattle rookie that led the Oakland Athletics past the Mariners.
A.J. Griffin (1-0) allowed two runs in six innings and John Jaso drove in a run against his former team as the Athletics won back-to-back games to earn a split of the season-opening series.
Michael Morse homered for the third straight day and joined Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997 as the only Mariners to homer four times in the first four games. But that wasn’t enough as Maurer (0-1) struggled in his major league debut.
BLUE JAYS 10, INDIANS 8
TORONTO — J.P. Arencibia hit two solo homers, Edwin Encarnacion added a three-run shot and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Cleveland Indians, avoiding their first 0-3 start since 2004.
Jose Bautista hit a two-run homer and Colby Rasmus also connected as the Blue Jays went deep five times.
Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds replied with solo homers for the Indians, who were trying to start a season with three straight road wins for the first time since 1998.
Steve Delabar (1-0) got two outs for the win and Casey Janssen finished in the ninth for his first save.
CUBS 3, PIRATES 2
PITTSBURGH — Travis Wood allowed one hit over six innings.
Wood struck out four and walked two as the Cubs won a season-opening series for the first time in four years. Wood also scored the game’s first run, racing home on Starlin Castro’s single in the third inning. Nate Schierholtz smacked a two-run homer in the ninth to give the Cubs some breathing room.
Chicago needed it after another shaky outing from Carlos Marmol. The closer picked up his first save of the season, but only after the Pirates drew within one. Pittsburgh had the tying run on third with no outs, but Pedro Alvarez struck out and Neil Walker hit into a game-ending double play.
PADRES 2, METS 1
NEW YORK — Jedd Gyorko doubled in the go-ahead run in the fourth inning for his first major league RBI, and the San Diego Padres beat the New York Mets for their first win of the season.
Eric Stults (1-0) and five relievers combined on a five-hitter and struck out 14 for the Padres, who had not led in their first two games. Stults, who beat the Mets seven years ago for the Los Angeles Dodgers for his first big league win, made an opening-day roster for the first time.
Mets starter Dillon Gee (0-1) returned from shoulder surgery last summer and was nearly as sharp. He opened with a walk, then retired 10 in a row and wound up giving up three hits in 6 1-3 innings.
NATIONALS 6, MARLINS 1
WASHINGTON — Jordan Zimmermann worked around eight hits over six innings, Ryan Zimmerman’s three hits included a two-run double, and the Washington Nationals completed a season-opening three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins.
Jayson Werth tacked on a three-run homer in the seventh, and Bryce Harper had another eventful day, collecting two hits, taking an elbow to the face while scoring a run, and getting thrown out trying to steal third.
The defending NL East champion Nationals outscored the Marlins 11-1 in the series. At least Miami finally got someone home, ending a 19-inning run drought in the second Thursday on Justin Ruggiano’s homer to right off Zimmermann (1-0). Wade LeBlanc (0-1) took the loss.
PHILLIES 2, BRAVES 0
ATLANTA — Cliff Lee allowed two hits in eight scoreless innings and the Philadelphia Phillies scored twice in the second inning to win their first game of the season.
Lee (1-0) didn’t win his first game last year until July 4, but the former Cy Young Award winner outpitched Kris Medlen (0-1) with temperatures in the low 40s and a light mist falling most of the game.
Philadelphia scored two runs in the second on Ben Revere’s fielder’s choice RBI and Chase Utley’s sacrifice fly RBI. After Lee watched Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay lose the first two games by a combined 16-7 score, the left-hander walked none and struck out eight in 106 pitches to give the Phillies’ renowned threesome a big lift.
Lee left for pinch-hitter Freddy Galvis in the ninth. Jonathan Papelbon earned his first save.
REDS 5, ANGELS 4
CINCINNATI — Shin-Soo Choo homered on Joe Blanton’s first pitch of the game, the first of Cincinnati’s three homers off the right-hander, and the Reds pulled away to a victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
The Reds took two of three during the first interleague series to open a season. Todd Frazier had a solo homer off Blanton (0-1), and Chris Heisey’s two-run shot put Cincinnati up 5-3 in the fifth. Blanton gave up five runs and seven hits in five innings.
Bronson Arroyo (1-0) gave up three runs in six innings, including Josh Hamilton’s two-run single that was his first hit for the Angels. Albert Pujols drove in a pair of runs with a sacrifice fly and a groundout.
Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth for his first save.