Jeter's ninth-inning homer gave the Yankees a 4-3 victory Tuesday and bailed out Rivera after the All-Star closer blew yet another lead against the Red Sox.
"We escaped today," New York manager Joe Torre said. "Mariano is still the best in the game as far as I'm concerned. That doesn't mean that clubs aren't going to get to him once in a while. These guys we're playing are the world champs."
Jason Varitek's homer off Rivera tied the score in the ninth. But Jeter led off the bottom half and drove Keith Foulke's 3-2 pitch over the right-field fence, giving the Yankees their second consecutive win over Boston to begin the season.
"Just a bad pitch to the wrong guy," Foulke said. "I kind of thought he popped it up and he did, but he hit it a lot farther than I thought."
Jeter also wasn't sure if he got enough until the ball cleared the fence. He said it was only the second game-ending homer of his career -- the other came in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series against Arizona.
But the Yankees captain took no extra satisfaction in spoiling Boston's day.
"We're trying to win. It doesn't matter who we're playing," Jeter said.
Carl Pavano dazzled in his New York debut, Hideki Matsui hit his second home run in two games and the Yankees handed a 3-2 lead to Rivera, who blew just four saves during the regular season last year but three in the playoffs.
After Rivera struck out Edgar Renteria to start the ninth, Varitek lined a 1-2 pitch over the right-field fence, costing Pavano a win.
Varitek pumped his fist as he rounded first base while Rivera shouted in frustration, a rare display of emotion. Surely he was recalling the leads he didn't protect against Boston in last year's AL Championship Series.
"I'm a human being. I bleed. I'm not a machine," Rivera said.
The Yankees were three outs from a four-game sweep when the Red Sox rallied against Rivera in Game 4 at Fenway Park, erasing a one-run deficit. They won that game in 12 innings, then came back against Rivera and his bullpen mates the next night, too.
Boston won the AL pennant in Game 7 at Yankee Stadium and went on to its first World Series title in 86 years.
Two of Rivera's blown saves during the regular season were against the Red Sox: He was 0-2 against them with a 4.22 ERA in nine appearances.
"I don't think we take the air out of him. He still has that confidence," Bosto's Johnny Damon said.
Two days after New York took the season opener 9-2 behind Randy Johnson, Pavano became the second member of the revamped rotation to enjoy a successful debut with the Yankees.
He outpitched Matt Clement, who was making his Red Sox debut. Like Pavano, Clement jumped into the middle of baseball's best rivalry when he signed as a free agent in the offseason.
Pavano, however, has been familiar with this story since he was a kid. He grew up rooting for the Yankees in central Connecticut, about halfway between New York and Boston.
After going 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA during a breakout season with Florida, he spurned the Red Sox last winter, signing a $39.95 million, four-year contract with New York.
"I tried to look at them as just another team," Pavano said. "I was trying to use the energy."
The right-hander finished with seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs and eight hits. He walked off the mound to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 54,690.
An error by new Red Sox shortstop Edgar Renteria led to New York's three-run third. The two-time Gold Glove winner booted a potential double-play ball, leaving runners at second and third with none out -- Alex Rodriguez should have been out easily at second but Mark Bellhorn missed the tag.
Gary Sheffield drove in a run with a hard groundout, and Matsui pulled a 2-2 pitch just beyond the short porch in right for a 3-0 lead.
Ortiz homered in the fourth, Boston's first this season.
Clement left the Cubs during the offseason for a $25.5 million, three-year contract with Boston. He lasted only 4 1/3 innings in his Red Sox debut, just as David Wells did Sunday night. The right-hander gave up three runs -- two earned -- and five hits, walking three and hitting a batter.
- Yankees DH Jason Giambi was hit by a pitch for the third time in two games, all by left-handers.
- Jeter was hit on the left hand by Clement's first pitch in the third.
- The last time the Red Sox were 0-2 was 1996, when they lost their first five. They had not been two games under .500 since they were 2-4 on April 9, 2000.