Yanks' victory over O's filled with firsts

Yanks' win over O's filled with firsts

BALTIMORE -- The Yankees cut A.J. Burnett an $82.5 million check this winter, their hitters all too familiar with the right-hander's ability to power his way through tight situations.

So no one should have been shocked when Burnett passed his first test in a new uniform in the third inning on Thursday, his surprise breaking ball pinning the bases loaded as he whirled off the mound with a fist pump.

It would become a banner afternoon for the newest Yankees, as Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira both hit their first New York homers to back Burnett in an 11-2 rout of the Orioles at Camden Yards, avoiding a series sweep.

"I just wanted to come out and set the tone," Burnett said. "Obviously, we have five starters here that can stop the bleeding at any time. That was my job today. I did what I could to keep my team in it."

The pivotal moment for Burnett came with one run already in for Baltimore. A walk gave Burnett (1-0) nowhere to put Aubrey Huff, and catcher Jose Molina trotted out to the mound when Burnett fell behind the dangerous fastball hitter.

Burnett and Molina realized they were on the same page for the full-count offering, shunning Burnett's 96-mph heat in favor of a curveball, thrown harder with some slide action. Huff waved at the 13-mph drop in velocity, and Burnett was on his way to logging a victory in his Yankees debut.

"That was probably the game," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He got a big out there and pitched his way out of a jam. He has that kind of stuff where he can get big strikeouts when he needs to."

The 32-year-old Burnett allowed two runs in a 98-pitch outing, touched only for Brian Roberts' RBI single in the third inning and a Luke Scott home run in the fourth.

"He's an ace," Molina said. "He could be a No. 1 on any team. I'm glad that he's on my team and we're not facing him."

The victory was the first of the year for the Yankees (1-2), who were outscored 17-10 in their first two games at Camden Yards.

Between the efforts of CC Sabathia on Opening Day and Chien-Ming Wang on Wednesday, no Yankees starter had recorded a strikeout in eight innings of work. It took Burnett just one batter to take care of that en route to a one-walk, six-strikeout performance.

"A.J. pitched great, and that's why we got him -- to have performances like he did today," Teixeira said. "He's just going to keep getting better as the season goes on."

Burnett said that he was not satisfied with the length of his outing, but four Yankees relievers took it home with scoreless ball as the game transitioned into a laugher.

"It's a lot off the shoulders," Burnett said. "I'm not content with mediocrity -- 5 1/3 [innings]. I'd like to go deeper in the game and save the bullpen. But we battled and we got a 'W' today, and that's all that matters."

Swisher tied a career high with five RBIs, cracking a two-run homer in the fourth inning off Baltimore starter Alfredo Simon (0-1), following up on a solo shot by Teixeira earlier in the frame, and wrapping his afternoon with a two-run double in the ninth inning.

"Whenever I'm told to go out there, I want to go out there and do my best," Swisher said. "Today, the sun was shining on me a little bit. It was nice, especially as my first start as a Yankee, to have a day like that."

Girardi said before the game that he has spoken to Swisher about keeping a positive attitude even though nightly at-bats are not a given.

"We want to keep him involved, because he's really an everyday player," Girardi said. "Sometimes you have to share the at-bats, but he looked good. It's going to take everyone. We know that we're in an extremely tough division and an extremely tough league."

Swisher arrived at Camden Yards on Thursday not knowing that he would be in the game against the Orioles (2-1), needing to check the lineup card each day to find out his assignment. Admitting that it has been difficult, Swisher said he is willing to see where it takes him.

"Skip told me to have faith and that it's going to work out, so I've got to trust the man," Swisher said. "He's a great man and a great manager. He'll make it all work."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.