CC: I struggled on two-strike counts

Sure it was cold out there Thursday, but that was nothing new for Yankees ace CC Sabathia.

The 6-7, 290-pound lefty pitched in plenty of chilly April games during his eight-year run in Cleveland. And Thursday was his third Opening Day start in the Bronx. So, no, the 42 degree game-time temperature didn’t faze him.

“It wasn’t hard to get loose,” Sabathia said. “There was definitely a buzz in the ballpark and it was easy to feed off of that.”

Sabathia allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings against the Tigers, striking out seven. The Yankees gave him a 3-1 lead in the third thanks to Mark Teixeira's three-run homer to right.

But Sabathia allowed a two-out RBI single to Brandon Inge in the fourth.

The Tigers then tied it in on an unearned run in the fifth when Will Rhymes reached on a sacrifice bunt after Robinson Cano dropped Teixeira’s underhanded toss to first. The bunt moved Austin Jackson to second and gave the Tigers runners on first and second with none out.

Jackson scored on a sacrifice fly by Miguel Cabrera.

Sabathia left at the end of the inning with the score tied 3-3.

“I made some pitches when I had to, got out of some tough spots and I was able to try to minimize the damage,” Sabathia said.

Curtis Granderson broke the tie with a solo homer in the seventh and the Yankees bullpen made the lead stand up thanks to scoreless innings from Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera, who earned the save.

“It’s definitely a strength of our team and you saw that today,” Sabathia said of the 'pen.

The Yankees also need the left arm of Sabathia to be a strength for them in 2011. In a starting rotation filled with question marks like A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia, Sabathia is supposed to be a sure thing.

The Yanks are counting on him to be the same pitcher who won 21 games in 2010.

As for his 2011 debut, Sabathia said he pitched "OK."

He bemoaned the fact that he couldn’t make an "out" pitch on two-strike counts. Sabathia struggled in particular with locating his two-strike cut fastball.

Detroit finished 4-for-10 with an RBI and a walk on counts of 0-2 or 1-2 against him.

“I just need to work on getting that strikeout pitch,” said Sabathia, who is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in eight Opening Day starts. “Not even a strikeout pitch, just making a better pitch than I did today.”

The left-hander added that he had no trouble throwing to new catcher Russell Martin.

“I think I shook him off one time, so our chemistry is pretty good,” he said.