NEW YORK — Jackie Bradley Jr. was born on April 19, 1990, about two months before a righthander from Panama named Mariano Rivera pitched his first minor league game for the Yankees.
Their lives did not intersect until the top of the ninth inning on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. Rivera needed one out to get the 609th save of his career and Bradley represented the tying run.
Three pitches later, the game was over as Bradley struck out looking and the Yankees had a 4-2 victory. The graying legend had bested the promising rookie.
Rivera threw Bradley three cut fastballs, his signature pitch. The first was inside and off the plate, but umpire Mike DiMuro called it a strike. Bradley fouled off the second one, then took the third one, which was a little outside.
Bradley prides himself on knowing the strike zone. But DiMuro called him out and the Yankees exhaled, having avoided a three-game sweep.
“Too close to take,” Bradley said, his tone suggesting he had learned a lesson. “Too close to take.”
It was the first appearance for Rivera since undergoing knee surgery last May and missing the remainder of the season. He inherited a 4-1 lead from fellow throwback Andy Pettitte and walked Dustin Pedroia to start the ninth.
Mike Napoli popped out, but Jonny Gomes doubled down the line in left field and Pedroia went to third. Will Middlebrooks, facing Rivera for the first time, grounded to second to score a run. Then Bradley had his chance with Gomes on third.
“We did a good job of coming back,” Sox manager John Farrell said.
Ryan Dempster faced the Yankees once last season, on Aug. 13 while pitching for Texas. He allowed eight earned runs in six innings. The righthander was better Thursday, but left the game after five innings trailing, 3-0.
Dempster allowed five hits, walked four, and struck out eight. He threw 101 pitches in what was a drawn-out performance.
“The pitch count really got him tonight,” Farrell said.
After Travis Hafner singled in the second inning, Dempster struck out Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki. Eduardo Nunez followed with a blast to right-center that hopped the fence for a ground-rule double.
Dempster caught a break as Hafner had to stop at third base. But his next pitch, a fastball away to Lyle Overbay, was dumped into left field for a two-run, broken-bat single.
“It just fell in the right spot,” Dempster said. “It’s a situation where you don’t want to give him too much to hit there. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Overbay spent most of spring training with the Red Sox before being released March 26. He joined the Yankees later that day and made the team as a platoon first baseman.
The Yankees made it 3-0 in the third inning when Brett Gardner lined a home run just over the wall bordering the short porch in right.
As was the case with Overbay, Dempster threw a fastball out of the zone. This time it was low, but Gardner was able to get it.
In his first start against the Red Sox since 2010, the 40-year-old Pettitte allowed one run on eight hits. He struck out three, walked one, and needed only 94 pitches.
The Red Sox threatened in the first inning, but being too aggressive cost them.
Shane Victorino singled with one out and Mike Napoli grounded a single into left field with two down. With Gomes up, Pettitte threw a curveball in the dirt that bounced past catcher Francisco Cervelli and went to the backstop.
Victorino went to third base and saw that Cervelli was slow retrieving the ball, and Pettitte was not covering the plate. Victorino took off and dived in headfirst. Cervelli just beat him and blocked him from the plate.
“I didn’t see Pettitte covering. I took off and hoped I would beat Cervelli to the plate,” Victorino said. “I kind of kick myself in the butt because I hesitated when I got to third.”
Cervelli landed on Victorino’s left hand, which led to a visit from the trainer, but Victorino stayed in the game.
Farrell has said he wants his players to be aggressive on the bases and put pressure on opposing teams. But he noted after the game that Gomes had success against Pettitte in his career (8 of 22) and that made it too much of a risk.
“Shane’s an aggressive base runner and in this case it didn’t work out,” Farrell said.
The Sox finally scored in the seventh inning. With two outs, Middlebrooks singled to right field. Bradley followed with a blast to the base of the wall in right-center for an RBI double.
David Ross, down 0-and-2 in the count, took a slider for a ball, then launched another slider to left-center. The ball carried, but Gardner was able to track it down at the wall. On a warmer night, it’s a home run.
“I thought the ball David Ross hit had a chance to go out of the ballpark,” Farrell said. “He gave it a good ride.”
The Yankees got the run back quickly when Cervelli greeted relief pitcher Clayton Mortensen with a long home run into the bullpen area in left-center.