Yankees strand runners, drop Opening Day matinee to Blue Jays in extra innings
photo credit: (Kathy Willens/AP)
To many, Opening Day is the best day of the year. The green grass-grown and trimmed precisely, the field groomed, the hot dogs grilling, and the fans filling the seats for the first time in months. In this case, after a year of masks, social distancing, and life on pause, Opening Day means so much more. There haven't been fans for a game in Yankee Stadium since 2019. A year and a half later, the Bronx faithful was welcomed back. Masks, limited capacity, and some restrictions didn't stop Yankee fans. The only thing that mattered on Thursday afternoon was seeing their beloved Yanks take on American League East (AL East) foe, the Toronto Blue Jays, looking to start another season of Pinstripes baseball on the right note.
New York's ace and coveted 2019 free agent Gerrit Cole and Toronto's Hyun-jin Ryu took to the hill, facing high expectations from their respective fanbases.
In the top of the first inning, Cole retired the side, doing it swiftly. The Yankees also went scoreless. Cole had a lot of trouble in the second, struggling with his slider greatly. The Blue Jays broke through in the first, posting a run. With two men on, Cole got out of a jam, striking out Danny Jansen on a 3-2 count after a couple of foul balls. In the bottom of the second, Gary Sanchez homered. It gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead, their first lead of the season.
The lead didn't last too long. In the top of the sixth, Teoscar Hernandez absolutely blasted a home run into the left-field bleachers. Cole lasted 5 1/3 and posted 8 strikeouts. Chad Green went 1 2/3 innings, relieved Cole, and recorded outs. Ryu lasted no longer than Cole, going 5 1/3 innings and posted 5 strikeouts. Jonathan Loaisiga and Darren O'Day held Toronto scoreless.
The Bombers had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth, with the score tied at two apiece. Gary Sanchez led off. He got on base. Mike Tauchmann was put into the game as a pinch-runner and safely stole second. On a 3-2 pitch, Jay Bruce went down swinging. With Clint Frazier at the plate, Tauchmann went to third after Jansen mishandled a pitch on the at-bat's second pitch. On another 3-2 pitch, Frazier walked. DJ LeMahieu came to the plate.
DJ grounded a ball to third base on the first pitch he saw. Tauchmann ran and was easily thrown out at home. Aaron Judge came to the plate, looking for his first walk-off hit. Judge had a runner in scoring position and struck out. Two runners were stranded, and the game went to extra innings.
In extras, by rule, both teams placed a runner on second base. Toronto scored in the top of the tenth.
In the bottom of the tenth, Aaron Hicks looked at three straight strikes. Giancarlo Stanton looked at two strikes and swung and missed on the third. Gleyber Torres was retired to end the game. Toronto won 3-2.
The Yanks were unable to drive in runs and didn't swing the bat in the tenth, finding themselves behind in counts and fighting to stay alive at the plate. Ultimately that was the difference on Thursday afternoon.
After the game, when asked about Stanton being booed by Yankee fans, manager Aaron Boone said, "He's too talented, he knows what he's doing, he knows what the league is trying to do to him." Boone also praised Stanton's work ethic, suggesting that he's "disciplined" and that he feels Stanton will have a fantastic year despite massive Opening Day struggles.
Cole addressed the media as well, pointing out some areas of needed improvement in his game. "I just want that slider back," Cole said. While still having a decent outing, Cole and his team will need to be much better moving forward, especially if they want to continue to be viewed as a serious World Series contender.
These two teams will face off again in The Bronx on Saturday, with first pitch set for 1:05 PM Eastern Time.