- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Yankees and Mets broke in their luxurious new ballparks with exhibition victories in front of wide-eyed fans eager to check out the new digs.

In the Yankees’ first game at their $1.5 billion stadium, Robinson Cano and Hideki Matsui hit two-run homers, and Cody Ransom hit a three-run shot to lead New York to a 7-4 win over the Chicago Cubs before 48,402 on Friday night.

“It was strange. I’ve got to be honest with you,” said Yankees captain Derek Jeter, who doubled to lead off the bottom of the first. “It’s going to take a while to get used to. It took me around 1 1/2 innings to figure out where the balls and strikes are on the scoreboard. Everything’s different.”

The field has the same dimensions the old stadium just across 161st Street used last year. But after playing in baseball’s most famous park from 1923 and winning 26 World Series titles, the Yankees wanted the revenue boost of a new stadium. The new stadium restored many of the elements stripped from the original during the 1974-75 renovation, including the famous frieze hanging from the roof and manual scoreboards on the fences.

“It looks pretty much identical,” said the Cubs’ Aaron Miles, who hit a two-run double in the second off Chien-Ming Wang.

Meanwhile, over in Queens, the Mets opened the $800 million Citi Field with a 4-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox. Carlos Beltran hit an RBI single and new closer Francisco Rodriguez earned a save.

An enthusiastic crowd of 37,652, almost certainly diminished by the weather, turned out for the Mets’ first game since moving out of dingy Shea Stadium, their home from 1964-2008.

“I think this is good for us mentally, too. You get a clean slate,” third baseman David Wright said.

New York also made a splash away from the field, agreeing to a contract with 40-year-old slugger Gary Sheffield three days after he was released by Detroit. The outspoken Sheffield is expected in New York on Saturday and the deal is contingent on him passing a physical, general manager Omar Minaya said.

The asymmetrical dimensions at Citi Field are a major change from Shea. It is 415 feet to the fence in right-center, and the outfield walls change height seven times. A section of right-field stands hangs over the lower deck, with the porch extending 8 feet into the field of play.

“As good as advertised and better. Everybody knew they wanted a pitcher-friendly ballpark,” Wright said. “Who knows? I think the bigger the field plays, the more it is to our advantage.”

The Yankees open their new stadium for real on April 16 against Cleveland, while the Mets’ regular-season home opener is April 13 against San Diego.

Phillies 3, Rays 2

At Philadelphia, six months after leading the parade down Broad Street atop a horse-drawn carriage, Pat Burrell returned to the city he helped bring a World Series championship last year wearing an unusual color.

Donning the navy blue of his new club _ the Tampa Bay Rays _ Burrell received multiple standing ovations during his visit to the city that was his home for the past nine seasons. He drove in the first run of Tampa’s loss to the Phillies with a two-out single.

Rays starter Scott Kazmir threw three scoreless innings, while Phillies starter Joe Blanton allowed two runs in six innings.

Cardinals 13, Redbirds 1

At Memphis, Tenn., Albert Pujols drove in six runs and Ryan Ludwick hit a two-run homer as St. Louis defeated the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.

Pujols launched a two-run homer onto the left-field bluff in the third inning _ his second homer of the spring _ and hit a three-run double into the left-field corner in the fourth. He added a run-scoring single in the fifth in the first of two exhibition games between the clubs this weekend.

Rangers 7, Royals 2

At Frisco, Texas, David Murphy’s two-run single highlighted a four-run fifth inning for the Rangers against Zach Greinke.

Rookie Elvis Andrus led off the fifth with a bunt single, and the Rangers later loaded the bases. Josh Hamilton’s RBI groundout _ his 27th RBI of the spring _ Hank Blalock’s sacrifice fly, and Murphy’s two-run single gave Texas a 4-2 lead.

Rangers starter Vicente Padilla left after two innings because of slight stiffness in his right forearm.

Blue Jays 10, Marlins 4

At Jupiter, Fla., Chris Volstad, Florida’s No. 3 starter, allowed four runs on six hits _ including two home runs _ in five innings in the Marlins’ loss.

Scott Rolen went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer for Toronto.

Volstad finished the spring 0-3 with a 4.00 ERA. After a strong start, he gave up seven runs in nine innings over his final two starts.

Braves 3, Tigers 1

At Atlanta, Javier Vazquez pitched four perfect innings and Omar Infante hit a two-run homer to lead the Braves.

Vazquez needed only 40 pitches, including 30 strikes, to retire each of the 12 batters he faced.

Atlanta starters have a 2.38 ERA and 13-5 record with only Saturday’s exhibition against the Tigers remaining before Sunday’s opener at Philadelphia.

Orioles 6, Nationals 3

At Norfolk, Va., Koji Uehara, making his longest start of the spring on his 34th birthday, showed the best of what the Orioles hope to get out of him this season after signing him for $10 million, needing just 72 pitches to get through six innings in a win. He allowed one hit in six innings, a splitter that Ryan Zimmerman tucked inside the left-field foul pole for a two-run homer in the fourth.

Astros 2, Indians 0

At Houston, Brian Moehler allowed two hits in five scoreless innings to lead the Astros.

The Astros are counting on Moehler in a rotation that is shaky behind ace Roy Oswalt. On Friday, he looked ready for the regular season, striking out five with no walks.

Star slugger Lance Berkman went 1-for-3 with a double in his second game back after missing almost a week with tendinitis in his left biceps.

Twins 4, Pirates 4, 10 innings

At Bradenton, Fla., Zach Duke pitched five shutout innings for Pittsburgh and Minnesota’s Kevin Slowey also did well in his final spring start as the Pirates and Twins played to a tie.

Duke gave up four hits and struck out two. The Twins scored four times against the Pirates’ bullpen, three on Brian Buscher’s homer.

White Sox 6, Diamondbacks 3

At Phoenix, John Danks threw five shutout innings and Carlos Quentin went 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs to help Chicago.

Paul Konerko was 2-for-4 and drove in a run, Chris Getz was 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI and Jim Thome and Alexei Ramirez each added RBI singles for the White Sox.

Rockies 6, Mariners 3

At Las Vegas, Todd Helton went 3-for-3 with an RBI double to lead Colorado.

The Mariners were playing without Ichiro Suzuki, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 31 with bleeding ulcers. He’s eligible to come off the DL on April 15.

Angels 6, Padres 5

At San Diego, Kelvim Escobar made his spring training debut, allowing three runs, two earned and three hits in 3 1-3 innings for Los Angeles.

Vladimir Guerrero hit his second home run of the spring off Walter Silva on a high fast ball in the second inning. Jeff Mathis’ two-run double capped a three-run second.

Brewers 7, Dodgers 2

At Los Angeles, Yovani Gallardo pitched five scoreless innings in his final tuneup, Jason Kendall hit a two-run homer, and Mike Cameron added a three-run double to lead Milwaukee.

Chad Billingsley, pitching for the first time in 11 days because of tightness in his groin, threw 76 pitches over five innings and allowed two runs and four hits and five strikeouts. Russell Martin hit a two-run homer in the seventh for Los Angeles.

Athletics 2, Giants 1, 10 innings

At San Francisco, Randy Johnson gave up a run and four hits with two walks and four strikeouts in five innings.

A’s starter Dana Eveland went six innings, allowing a run and three hits. He walked four and struck out five. Nomar Garciaparra went 2-for-3 to extend his hitting streak to nine games. He’s hitting .455 since joining the A’s in early March.


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