The opening series at Yankee Stadium was a brutal one for the New York Yankees, as they dropped two-of-three contests to the hapless Baltimore Orioles. Somehow the Yankees managed to go 6-for-29 with runners in scoring position and couldn’t go for the jugular against the O’s. Yes, it’s early but each regular season game counts the same and could mean the difference in a playoff spot or home-field advantage. So, it was a brutal, frustrating and all around irritating series to start the season.
Certainly, there were some positives for the pinstripes, a solid Opening Day victory and some new additions making solid first impressions.
At the conclusion of Opening Day, the Yankees were in sole possession of first place in the AL East and all was right in the baseball universe. The Bronx Bombers utilized timely hitting, power hitting, and power pitching to make fast work of the Bowie Baysox Orioles. Aside from a botched baserunning miscommunication which resulted in a double play off an infield fly rule, it was pretty much a laugher right off the rip. The 7-2 thumping is what you should do to a team coming off a 115-loss season, which no longer has Manny Machado on the roster.
Throwing out the first pitch, Mariano Rivera looked like he could’ve made for a solid opener. Opening the season on the Bronx bump was Masahiro Tanaka. Masa’s matinee included an economical array of sliders and splitters. Tanaka toiled for 5.2 frames, fanning five, yielding two runs, one earned and six hits, inducing seven groundouts and four flyouts.
Tanaka proved to be a constant, as he has been since arriving in 2014.
One could argue Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman weren’t even throwing full force and yet they proved equally as effective in relief. Ottavino’s slider movement in his Bronx debut was “Madduxian,” breaking back and dropping off the plate. No. 0 recorded three K’s in 1.1 frames. Britton and Chapman each tossed a scoreless frame.
How is manager Aaron Boone doing in year two? He’s “losing the battle to win the war” for lack of a better phrase. What do I mean? Well, in the eighth inning the Yankees skipper easily could’ve pulled the plug on Bird, who up to the point had whiffed three times, made a questionable stab at a Miguel Andujar throw and was feeling the boo birds, and subbed in DJ LeMahieu against a lefty and for late game defense. Yet, Boone gave Bird a vote of confidence, stuck with him against Paul Fry and it paid off. Bird cranked an 0-2 slider over the wall in right-center and the “extra point” was good.
OK, so the Yankees weren’t going to go 162-0 and the Orioles weren’t going to go 0-162, contrary to popular belief. Yet, it didn’t make the Yankees 5-3 loss any less frustrating. Going 3-for-9 with RISP, New York had Baltimore on the ropes early but let them escape and in the end, the cavalry came too late.
Starting with the positive, James Paxton looked at home in pinstripes. The Big Maple delivered 5.2 frames, surrendering one earned run on four hits, walking one and fanning five.
James Paxton dots the corner with some 98 mph HEAT to close out a dominant first inning in the Bronx!
However, as mentioned, the rest of the defense faltered with LeMahieu being charged for an error which easily could’ve gone to Voit. Voit making a throw to second which went into left field, a throw which only Jason Giambi‘s mom could love. Plus, Gary Sanchez made a throwing error on a double steal in the sixth inning, enabling the Orioles to grab a 2-1 advantage.
OFFENSE STALLS OUT
The Orioles employed a pothole patchwork bullpen effort of sorts and for whatever reason, it kept the Yankees offbeat. During the first frame, Nate Karns deployed the Daisuke Matsuzaka strategy of walking the heart of the order and then with one out getting Andujar to bang into an inning-ending double play. It was a rough day for Andujar, who left five on base, along with Gardner, who took an 0-for-3 and stranded three runners.
SWEET JESUS, WHAT’S HAPPENING OUT THERE?
Chad Green and Jonathan Holder didn’t’ quite have the debuts they wanted on the bump. Green yielded an RBI-single to Jesus Sucre in the seventh stanza and Holder fell victim to a two-run double by Sucre in the ninth to make it 5-1 O’s.
TOO LITTLE, TU LATE
New York staged a bit of a rally in the home half of the ninth. Troy Tulowitzki smacked a solo shot to the short porch off ex-Yankee southpaw Richard Bleier, for his first homer in pinstripes.
Following a double by LeMahieu and a one-out single by Judge, Voit plated a run with a two-out single to center off Mike Wright Jr.
Unfortunately, that would be the extent of the damage, as Andujar went down swinging to end the game.
As Yankees and Yankee fans lay to rest in their beds, visions of garbage changeups danced around in their heads. The series finale was an irritatingly long and rain delayed day into night and resulted in a 7-5 defeat.
J.A. Happ is no longer undefeated in pinstripes during the regular season. The normally solid southpaw was smacked around early to the tune of four runs in four frames. A three-run homer to left by Renato Nunez in the first inning and a solo bomb to center by Trey Mancini in the third inning were responsible for the damage against the veteran lefty.
RISP STRUGGLES CONTINUE
New York only mustered a 2-for-12 line with RISP Sunday. Facing starter Dylan Bundy during the third inning, Gleyber Torres doubled to left and LeMahieu coaxed a walk. Yet, Gardner popped out to second, Judge struck out swinging, Stanton drew a walk to load the bases but Voit went down looking at a slider.
During the sixth inning, consecutive one-out singles by Gardner and LeMahieu against John Means were squandered after Judge and Stanton struck out on breaking balls.
The Yankees lineup did battle back early despite the aforementioned issues. During the fourth frame, Andujar led off with a single to center. New York alternated strikeouts and walks with Bird and LeMahieu reaching and chasing Bundy. Gardner plated a run with a walk against Means. The ensuing batter Judge notched a two-run single to right, pulling the Yankees within a run at 4-3. Yet the rally ended with a Stanton strikeout on a changeup.
Aaron Judge drives in two runs. Yankees now trail 4-3.
With Luis Cessa on in the fifth, Jonathan Villar reached on a one-out single, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by Sanchez. Dwight Smith followed with an RBI-single to left. It was an otherwise decent 2019 debut outing for Cessa.
Yet, during the seventh Sanchez launched a full count changeup off Means and into the stands in left for his first home run of the campaign.
PLAYING CATCHUP, PLAYING WITH FIRE
Certainly one doesn’t want to run the bullpen into the ground in the first series and as a manager, you try to work everyone in. However, the Yankees may have been burned in this regard with a few extra runs here and there with the underbelly of the bullpen.
In the eighth Cessa fanned Mancini and walked Nunez, prompting Boone to summon Stephen Tarpley. After getting Rio Ruiz to ground out, the Yankees and Tarpley had a base open with the atrocious lefty dead wood bat of Chris Davis on deck. Unfortunately, the decision was made to pitch to Joey Rickard and Rickard swatted a two-run home run to right. Tarpley rounded out the frame by walking Davis on four straight pitches before whiffing Pedro Severino to close out the frame.
An inning later, Tommy Kahnle performed his best David Robertson Houdini act by walking three consecutive batters before fanning Mancini, getting Nunez to ground into a 3-2 force out and whiffing Ruiz to escape the threat.
LATE RALLY NOT ENOUGH AGAIN
The pinstripes staged another mini ninth-inning rally with two outs. Bird drew a walk against Mychal Givens. Torres beat out a bang-bang play at first for a single. LeMahieu continued his solid heroics with an RBI-single to right. After the O’s called on Fry, the Yanks sent up Tulowitzki with a chance to be a hero again but there wouldn’t be another homer but a swinging strikeout on a slider to end the game.
At 1-2 the Yankees close out the opening homestand by playing host to the 2-2 Detroit Tigers, who are coming off a split at the Toronto Blue Jays, for a three-game series.