The Yankees never trailed in the contest, thanks to A-Rod's first-inning display. In his first at-bat after missing 28 games with right hip surgery, Rodriguez belted a 97-mph Jeremy Guthrie heater to left-center field, drawing a loud reception from the mixed crowd of 36,926 as he rounded the bases for his 554th career home run.
"There was just a different aura today," Nick Swisher said. "We knew we had one of our guys coming back and I think that just thrust us to the next level."
"Alex got us started on the right foot, and CC took over," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Both of them had exceptional performances. That's a big hit, and then you have your ace on the staff with a 3-0 lead. That allows him to go to work."
And it was Sabathia's game, with the left-handed ace stepping into the driver's seat and atoning for a troubled Opening Day start on the same mound back on April. Making his best start since signing a seven-year, $161 million contract, Sabathia looked worth every penny this time around.
"One swing," Rodriguez said, "and the rest was CC."
Sabathia was dominant, hurling a briskly-paced masterpiece. Sabathia credited Rodriguez's home run for adding some spark to the evening.
"I think everyone was excited," Sabathia said. "That was unbelievable, to come up first pitch and go deep with a three-run home run. It gave us a lot of energy and it helped me, too, to go out and pitch the way I did today."
Sabathia allowed hits to the first two batters of the evening but received some help from the rookie backstop Cervelli, who gunned down Adam Jones attempting to steal second base for the second out of the frame.
That began a string that would see Sabathia face just one batter over the minimum into the ninth inning, with only Brian Roberts' third-inning walk mixed in to blemish the 112-pitch gem and break up a string of 23 out of 24 batters retired.
"I was just trying to attack and pound the zone," Sabathia said. "I had a three run lead and I was trying to attack everybody -- come at them and throw strikes."
Owning sharp command of his slider and changeup, Sabathia was able to use both sides of the plate and worked seamlessly with Cervelli, catching the star for the first time in a game situation -- Spring Training included -- and on the same night he logged his first big league hit with a fourth-inning single.
"That's the Sabathia you saw last year in the National League, working both sides of the plate," Baltimore's Aubrey Huff said. "We couldn't pick up his curveball. That's why he got paid the big bucks. That's the kind of stuff he can bring every night."
The Yankees added only one more run, on Johnny Damon's seventh-inning slap double down the third-base line off reliever Bob McCrory. But with Sabathia firing bullets, it was more than enough.
"He needed one run -- that's all he needed," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "Tonight belonged to Sabathia, the way he pitched. He had it all going for him. He did what he had to do. He pitched a tremendous game."
Sabathia carried a four-run advantage to the final inning, where Cesar Izturis dribbled a single up the middle and Roberts blooped a hit into shallow left field.
With the shutout on the line, Sabathia found a new gear. His response was to strike out the Nos. 2-4 hitters in Baltimore's lineup, ending the game by getting Melvin Mora to wave at an 87-mph changeup, his eighth strikeout of the evening.
"It felt good just to make a pitch and get out of that situation," Sabathia said. "That's why I was so emotional at the end of this one," Sabathia said. "I felt like I had been throwing the ball pretty good ... to be able to get out of that jam with two runners on and two strikes, it felt good."
The win -- Sabathia's second in a Yanks uniform -- marked his 11th career shutout. It also came at a time when his new team could not have needed it more, suffering through a dreary homestand at Yankee Stadium that last saw them own a lead in the fifth inning on Saturday.
"We know we're a good team, and if we play the kind of ball that we're capable of, everybody thinks we're going to be fine," Sabathia said. "With the talent we have in that clubhouse, we know we can just come out and play good baseball."