On Opening Day the New York Yankees lost 3-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays. The game was tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the ninth, but even after getting multiple runners to third, the Yanks were unable to finish the Jays off. This game definitely had some pros and cons, potentially solidifying some concerns but also erasing other ones.
Gary, Clint Shine Despite General Lack of Pop From Yankees Lineup
Possibly the two players with the most to prove this season actually impressed on Opening Day. Had the Yankees won, Gary Sanchez would have been the MVP of the game. His 2-run blast in the bottom of the 2nd was a great sign of possible improvements. For the past two years, the Kraken has struggled mightily with plate discipline, but today he showed the ability to wait for his pitch. He also added a hustle-single and a walk to his nice day at the plate
Clint Frazier also had a solid outing, going 2-for-3 in situations to put a runner in scoring position. Though he got jammed on all three ABs, he was able to pop two of those over Bo Bichette‘s head. Hopefully he will continue to put together strong at-bats.
On the other hand, the Blue Jays pitchers rocked the rest of the Yankees lineup. DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gio Urshela all failed to reach base once. Furthermore, both DJ and Aaron Judge had multiple opportunities to take the lead–in the 7th and the 9th–but failed to take advantage. It is always embarrassing when your best players cannot come in clutch. Especially with the Yankee’s concerns about producing in the postseason (yes I know it is still Opening Day but still).
Cole’s Solid Outing Not Enough To Keep The Yankees Alive
Gerrit Cole was clearly not at the top of his game today. Still, that did not prevent him from fighting hard and turning his Opening Day outing into a solid one. Cole allowed 2 runs over 5.1 innings, striking out 8 and walking 2. He started off missing with his slider, so he turned to his changeup and heater for a few batters in the 3rd, K-ing two of them. After that, he was able to re-find his slider, and the only bad one he threw the rest of the game was the homer from Teoscar Hernandez in the 6th.
Cole was pulled after walking Vladimir Guerrero Jr. the at-bat after that Hernandez home run. Thankfully, Green came in for 1 pitch in the 6th, causing Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to ground into a double-play. Green stayed in for another inning, followed by Jonathan Loaisiga and Darren O’Day. All of them pitched scoreless innings.
Then, in the 10th, Manager Aaron Boone brought in Nick Nelson, who gave up a double to Randal Grichuk before settling down. Unfortunately, due to the new extra-innings rules still in place from last year, that hit was enough to give Toronto the lead. This respectable pitching performance was wasted by a putrid offensive output.
Opening Day Takeaways
The two most obvious takeaways from this Opening Day are that the Yankees need to mix up the lineup and that the extra-innings rule is still dumb.
As I wrote in my article about who should bat leadoff, I think batting Hicks 3rd is a HUGE mistake. Surrounding Hicks with power hitters wastes his value as a speedster, walk-creator, and bunter. Alternatively, putting Gleyber Torres there and moving Frazier up to 5th would allow for much more synergy.
On the other hand, this game is a prime example for why the extra-innings runner experiment is a failure. The Blue Jays offense was as cool as a cucumber for practically the entire second half of the game. Yet, because of one hit (not even a home run!), they were able to beat the Yankees. The runner causes an unnecessary reset of momentum, created artificially rather than by the teams actual abilities.
Finally, we should all pray for Sanchez and Frazier continue to play as they did on Opening Day, while let’s hope the other Yankees turn it around on Saturday. Corey Kluber is slated to start against the Blue Jays, and I am excited to see what he’s got.