Girardi debuts as New York wins final opener at Yankee Stadium

NEW YORK (AP) -- Last opener at the old place, first win for Joe Girardi.

Just how the Babe would have wanted it.

Chien-Ming Wang shut down the Toronto Blue Jays for seven innings, making Girardi a winner in his rain-delayed debut as Yankees manager and sending New York to a record-setting 3-2 victory Tuesday night.

"It was a big night," Jason Giambi said. "This one is huge."

Back in 1923, Babe Ruth homered in front of 74,200 fans on the day Yankee Stadium opened. This time, it was Melky Cabrera's shot that tied it for New York. And the 84th opener at this storied ballpark ended like so many that came before -- with a victory by the home team.

After wet weather postponed the festivities Monday, Wang and the Yankees beat Roy Halladay (0-1) to win their major league-best 11th consecutive home opener. That snapped a tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who won 10 in a row from 1945-54, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

With owner George Steinbrenner and his son, Hank, a Yankees general partner, watching from their suite above home plate, Cabrera also made two outstanding catches in center field.

Alex Rodriguez scored on Hideki Matsui's grounder in the seventh, breaking a 2-all tie.

"It was a good, clean game. The difference was their defense," Toronto manager John Gibbons said.

Joba Chamberlain struck out two in a hitless eighth to the delight of his polio-stricken father, Harlan, who attended the game and cheered from his motorized scooter.

Mariano Rivera worked a perfect ninth for the save and handed Girardi the souvenir ball from the final out as the sellout crowd of 55,112 roared.

"He just congratulated me and he said that's No. 1 and let's get a lot more," Girardi said. "It's a neat moment for me."

Girardi took over this season from his popular mentor, Joe Torre, who guided the Yankees to playoff appearances in all 12 years at the helm.

"I know he really wanted to win this game," Derek Jeter said. "I'm happy for him."

Set to move next year into a new $1.3 billion ballpark that's under construction next door, New York improved to 58-26 in Yankee Stadium openers. The club has won 16 of its past 17, and 22 of 25.

When the game became official after the fifth inning, the video board in right-center showed a tape of George Steinbrenner pulling a lever as the digital countdown of regular-season games remaining at Yankee Stadium flipped from 81 to 80.

"You really can feel it from the fans, this year especially," Hank Steinbrenner said, adding that his father went over to see the new stadium Tuesday. "You can feel the excitement and the fever and the fans are, man, that really is like a 10th player out there."

It rained again Tuesday in New York, but the skies cleared about 75 minutes before gametime. Reggie Jackson was escorted to the mound by fellow Hall of Famer Yogi Berra to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

But a pair of Yankee Stadium staples were missing: longtime broadcaster Bobby Murcer and public-address announcer Bob Sheppard.

Murcer is regaining his strength following a brain biopsy last month. He had surgery in December 2006, four days after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

Sheppard wasn't behind the microphone because he's recuperating from an illness, so he was replaced by regular backup Jim Hall. When Jeter stepped to the plate, however, he was introduced by a recording of Sheppard's famous voice.

"I always want him to announce my name," Jeter said. "To me, Yankee Stadium is not the same without his voice."

A hamstring injury prevented Wang from starting last year's opener, and he ended the season by getting tagged in two playoff losses to Cleveland. But his sinker was on against Toronto and he was helped by several fine defensive plays -- including a couple by Giambi at first base.

"Joe ran us a lot in spring training. Everybody's in great shape and we played great defense tonight because of it," Giambi said.

Girardi visited the mound with a runner on third and two outs in the seventh, then stayed with Wang (1-0). Rodriguez snared David Eckstein's grounder to third, ending the inning.

Coming off his third AL MVP award, Rodriguez hit a two-out RBI double in the first inning.

Marco Scutaro and Shannon Stewart had RBI groundouts for Toronto.

Cabrera homered leading off the sixth, a pop fly that barely cleared the 314-foot sign in the right-field corner to Halladay's chagrin. That snapped Cabrera's streak of 163 at-bats without a homer since Aug. 12 at Cleveland.

"He had definitely the best curtain call that I've seen in a long time," Giambi said. "Straight scissor kick."

Game notes
Jeter made his 12th opening-day start at shortstop for the Yankees, passing Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto for the franchise record. ... Hank Steinbrenner said the Yankees still plan to make Chamberlain a starter in time for the playoffs. ... Thomas extended his Opening Day hitting streak to 14 games, the longest current run in the majors. ... Rivera didn't get his first save last season until April 28.