Andy Pettitte served as the stopper the Yankees needed Thursday, as the 40-year-old lefty silenced the Boston Red Sox to help New York avoid a sweep at the hands of its AL East rival with a 4-2 victory.
Over eight vintage innings, Pettitte (1-0) scattered eight hits and a walk while limiting the Red Sox to one run after they combined for 15 against Yankees pitching over the first two games.
As he had so many times before, Pettitte turned the game over to Mariano Rivera, who added to his all-time saves lead with a shaky ninth less than a year removed from suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Lyle Overbay staked the Yankees to an early lead with a two-run single, and Francisco Cervelli and Brett Gardner provided insurance with solo home runs.
Ryan Dempster (0-1) lasted just five innings in his Red Sox debut. The right- hander struck out eight, but allowed three runs on five hits and four walks to take the loss.
"I got outpitched by the guy on the other side of the field," Dempster said. "That's the way it goes sometimes."
Will Middlebrooks went 2-for-4 with an RBI and scored Boston's first run on Jackie Bradley Jr.'s two-out double in the seventh inning.
Pettitte retired David Ross on a flyout to the warning track to end the frame, and Cervelli quickly made it 4-1 with a blast into the left-field bullpen leading off the bottom half.
Pettitte needed just 94 pitches to get through eight, then gave way to Rivera, who was given a standing ovation by the Yankee Stadium crowd in his first appearance since Apr. 30. He was hurt while shagging fly balls during batting practice on May 3 and missed the remainder of the season.
There was some rust out of the gate in this his 19th big-league season, as he issued a leadoff walk to Dustin Pedroia and yielded a one-out double to Jonny Gomes. After Middlebrooks plated Pedroia with a groundout, Rivera caught Bradley looking at strike three to finish off the memorable save.
"There were a lot of emotions, but I had to control it and finish the game," Rivera said. "It was wonderful to be there."
Shane Victorino ran the Red Sox out of a run in the first inning when he tried to score from second on a wild pitch. Cervelli was slow retrieving the ball near the backstop, but the catcher had enough time to recover and nab a head- first sliding Victorino with a diving tag.
Overbay provided the Yankees with their first lead of the series with a two- out, two-run base hit to left-center in the second inning. Travis Hafner started the frame with a single, and Eduardo Nunez kept it alive with a two- out, ground-rule double.
Gardner made it 3-0 leading off the third as he found the first row of seats in right field for his first home run since Sept. 6, 2011.
Thursday marked the 27th time Pettitte was on the hill with the Yankees trying to avoid a sweep. He is 18-3 in those games ... Pettitte has made at least one start for the Yankees in 15 different seasons, tying Red Ruffing for second most in franchise history behind Whitey Ford (16) ... Pettitte improved to 19-10 against the Red Sox, while Dempster fell to 0-5 in six career starts against the Yankees ... Boston was trying to start a season with three straight road wins in New York for the first time since 1912, when the Yankees were known as the Highlanders ... The Red Sox play their next three games in Toronto, while the Yankees head to Detroit for three games against the Tigers.