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Yankee Pitchers Earn Their Pinstripes in the Opener, 2-1

April 07, 1987|From Times Wire Services

It was enough to make New Yorkers start thinking about October already.

It's well known that the Yankees have plenty of hitting. Monday, Dennis Rasmussen and Dave Righetti gave New York plenty of pitching, too.

With Rickey Henderson supplying the hitting, Rasmussen and Righetti combined for a five-hitter at Detroit as the Yankees beat the Tigers 2-1 in 10 innings in the season opener for both teams.

"Everybody talks about our hitting, but the places where we improved over the winter were pitching and defense," said Righetti, who last year had a major-league record 46 saves. "When you're facing a good pitcher like Jack Morris who's pitching a good game, it's important to do that."

Indeed, Morris, a 21-game winner last year who spurned the Yankees financial overtures during the winter, was superb--pitching 9 innings before Willie Hernandez came on to record the final out.

But Rasmussen was equally as effective, holding the Tigers to four hits over the first seven innings. His only mistake was a long home run by Larry Herndon leading off the Detroit sixth.

"Rasmussen knew he was going to pitch for a few days, so he was ready," Righetti said. "Then, they got him out when his confidence was high. That's going to pay dividends in the future, I think."

It was the first opening day victory on the road for the Yankees since they beat the old Washington Senators in 1969. In the interim, the Yankees had lost 10 openers on the road, and were 3-15 overall.

"Winning an opener is so important to this ballclub," Righetti said. "That's what winning ballclubs do if they want to win the championship. This was a very good ballgame."

Henderson's two-out double in the 10th inning scored Claudell Washington with the winning run.

After Morris retired the first two New York batters in the 10th. Washington hit a pinch-single to right and took third on Wayne Tolleson's single to right. Henderson followed with a double up the gap in right-center.

"I wanted to be patient," Henderson said. "I had come up with runners on first and third in the fifth inning and Morris struck me out. I was too anxious."

Morris, who departed after walking Willie Randolph, allowed nine hits, walking two and struck out four.

"I'm happy with how I pitched today," said Morris, who took the Tigers to arbitration and won a contract worth $1.85 million for this season. "I pitched pretty good out there. I'm just not happy losing."

Morris, who had thrown only 105 pitches through the first nine innings, said he still had good stuff in the 10th.

"My location was good," he said. "My velocity may have fallen off just a little, but I don't think that was a factor since I was throwing Henderson curves and sliders."

Righetti, who took over at the start of the eighth, got the victory. Righetti allowed one hit over the last three innings, striking out three and walking three.

After two were out in the Yankees fourth, Gary Ward got the first hit off Morris, a line single to center. Ward scored from first when Detroit third baseman Darnell Coles picked up a slow-rolling single by Dave Winfield and threw it into the New York bullpen for an error.

Coles, who made a team-high 13 of the Tigers' 45 errors in spring training, blamed himself for the defeat.

"We should have won 1-0, obviously," Coles moaned. "My error didn't help, but we didn't hit in key situations, either."

Herndon tied it 1-1 in the Detroit sixth with a home run off the facing of the second deck in straightaway center field, above the 440-foot sign, on a 2-and-1 pitch from Rasmussen.

Milwaukee 5, Boston 1--The Brewers hope to base a resurgence on young players, but it was the veterans who played with youthful exuberance in an opening day victory over the Red Sox at Milwaukee.

Paul Molitor, Robin Yount and Jim Gantner, the only three players on the opening-day roster left from the 1982 American League championship team, combined for seven hits and four RBIs to back the pitching of Teddy Higuera, who blanked the defending AL champions for the first seven innings.

"If you can score a couple of runs early it's a good sign with Higuera on the mound," said Yount, a 14-year veteran who drove in two runs with a single and double and scored a third.

"Anytime you play in front of 51,000 people and you haven't been here in a while, it's a whole different atmosphere. It gets your adrenalin going.

"We played well for the first game. We hope it's like 1982 but we've got a long way to go."

Higuera, a 20-game winner in 1986, yielded only six hits over the first seven innings before he was lifted. He was backed by 12 hits and several key defensive plays, including one that in the fourth inning prevented a Red Sox run.

Molitor had a triple and double and Gantner three hits.

Mark Clear pitched a hitless eighth and Dan Plesac worked the ninth, allowing a run on a single by Don Baylor and second baseman Juan Castillo's error.

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