BRONX, N.Y. — It wasn’t the effort New York Yankees fans were looking for. The pesky Toronto Blue Jays were ready to go and put the Bronx Bombers on notice, taking two of three in the opening series. The regular season has started. Wakey, wakey.
If you watched this game (and judging by Twitter if you had the YES app or MLB.TV, you weren’t) it was a bit of a slog but hey, baseball was back. Unfortunately, it was a 3-2 loss that mirrored the last postseason game the Yankees played in the 2020 ALDS.
HAVE A DAY SANCH
Gary Sanchez had the best afternoon by far of anyone in pinstripes. The catcher threw out a base runner in the second stanza, clocked a two-run tater during the home half, and also notched himself an infield hit.
Gerrit Cole was dippin’ dots (the ice cream of the future they told me at the mall kiosk in 1998) on the black with his fastball. Yes, his eight strikeouts in 5.1 frames were nice. I’ll grant you it was Opening Day but if I’m paying you $36 million to be my ace, you need to be able to shove for a minimum of seven innings. Hyun Jin Ryu, making about $16 million less than that, essentially matched Cole, who was done after 97 pitches. Cole yielded two runs on the day but couldn’t make it out of the sixth inning.
The Yankees nearly pulled off the walk-off in the ninth inning against Jason Romano and his cheese but ran themselves into and out of the inning. Sanchez walked and was pinch-run for by Mike Tauchman. Tauchman swiped second and third and the Yankees were set up. Yet, DJ LeMahieu grounded to third and Cavan Biggio cut down Tauchman at the dish. Aaron Judge fanned to end the frame.
BUSH LEAGUE RULE
Of all the rules you could keep or institute. Robot umps? Universal DH? Nope. Automatic base runner at second in extra innings. Of course, they kept that one!
The Yankee bullpen was otherwise spotless until poor Nick Nelson had to contend with softball rules in the tenth inning. Randal Grichuk doubled home Jonathan Davis and that was all she wrote. Stupid.
Now that’s more like it! The Yankees won’t go 0-162. They managed to go 4-for-10 with RISP and won 5-3.
STRINGING IT TOGETHER
With two down in the second stanza, the pinstripes rallied against Ross Stripling. Gio Urshela lined a single to center. Clint Frazier smoked a double to left. DJ LeMahieu busted out an infield single to plate the first run.
After working into and out of trouble during the first two frames, Corey Kluber found himself in trouble in the third. Following a strikeout and two walks, Kluber uncorked a wild pitch. With runners at the corners, Kluber whiffed Cavan Biggio but on the same play, Sanchez bounced a throw to Gleyber Torres (which he probably could’ve stopped in fairness) and the ball went into the outfield, gifting the tying run to Toronto.
Yet, in the fourth frame, Sanchez smoked a solo smash to left and the Bronx Bombers regained the lead. El Gary joined Elston Howard as the only Yankees catchers to hit a home run in each of the first two games of the season. That 1963 season saw Howard win the AL MVP.
The Yankees chased Stripling and with the bases loaded, an Aaron Hicks infield single off Tyler Chatwood, doubled the advantage to 3-1.
HOW LONG CAN THIS HOLD UP?
I’ll grant you Kluber has thrown one inning in two years but as well as the Yankee bullpen has performed, four-plus frames and 74 pitches aren’t going to cut it and it’s going to catch up. Kluber showed some glimpses of his former brilliance but was done after a Marcus Semien in the fifth frame.
Jonathan Loaisiga was sharp with two scoreless frames and three K’s. Lucas Luetge and Darren O’Day were solid as well.
Jay Bruce looked left for dead until he wasn’t. Bruce, who made a slick play in the field, also came through with his “True Yankee” moment in the sixth inning. After Rafael Dolis walked the bases loaded, Bruce, facing Tim Mayza, lofted a two-out, two-run single to left, making it 5-2.
With Aroldis Chapman serving his suspension, Chad Green put out another fire in the eighth with a strikeout of Rowdy Tellez with two on and two out. Green then worked a scoreless ninth to seal the deal.
Can you really have a punt game in Game 3 of the season? Apparently so. The Yankees suffered a lackluster 3-1 loss in their Sunday matinee. Neither starter was spectacular but the Yankees lineup couldn’t even run into one.
TIRED ALREADY G?
If you’re concerned about Giancarlo Stanton tweaking something because it’s 39 degrees out, fine, whatever. Yet, for skipper Aaron Boone to say, “I’m not gonna play G five days in a row,” is nonsense. First, you had Friday off. Second, it’s the third game of the season. Third, all he does is DH. Fourth, he’s 31 and making $29 million. Play!
Hence, the Yankees had a lineup that featured an almost cut Bruce batting fifth. Incredible.
Domingo German looked like he was a few eggs short of an Easter basket. His first outing since 2019 was hardly awe-inspiring. German lasted all of three innings and 68 pitches. Good thing we spend two months of spring training building up starters so they can go three innings but I digress.
German yielded three runs in the second stanza. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. swatted a solo bomb and Grichuk cranked a two-run tater. That was all the Blue Jays needed.
The lone Yankee run came courtesy of Frazier’s hustle during the fifth frame. Frazier blooped a double off Trent Thornton to right. The pinstripes right fielder tagged and advanced to third and then scored on a Brett Gardner groundout.
HEY WORLD, I’M THE KING OF NEW YORK!
Michael King was the bright spot for New York. King delivered the longest outing of any pinstriped pitcher on this young season. King tossed six scoreless frames, retiring 16 consecutive batters to end the game. It was much-needed length and hopefully, it’s a sign that he’s taking a step forward.
At 1-2, the Yankees will host the 3-0 Baltimore Orioles for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium beginning Monday evening.
Pitching probables: Jorge Lopez vs. Jordan Montgomery, Dean Kremer vs. Gerrit Cole, John Means vs. Jameson Taillon.