Opening Day has a way of setting the tone for the year. If a team or a player struggles, that gets amplified tenfold. The small sample size, combined with the attention paid to the first game of the season, results in inescapable narratives. It can take months to shake the reputation earned in the opener. Just ask Didi Gregorius about his first game in pinstripes.
On the other hand, a hot start can propel a team through the early stages of the season. The Yankees figure to get such a boost following a 6 - 1 victory over the Blue Jays on Thursday afternoon. Everything broke right for the Bombers. The offense showed off its prodigious power, the pitching staff kept runs off the board, and Aaron Boone looked at home in the dugout. While that’s an accurate summary, these stories deserve some unpacking.
Yesterday’s game started and finished with Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees’ major offseason acquisition showed that he’s as good as advertised. He went 3-for-5 with two home runs on the afternoon. How’s that for a debut? The team paid for one of the best power hitters in the business and he immediately delivered with two dingers. It’s hard to argue with that. He even got the silent treatment in the dugout following his second shot!
“That was cool, man. I try to be as calm as possible coming up with the anticipation of what it was going to be, but I was able to settle it down,” he told reporters following the game. “Opening Day, first at-bat as a Yankee, but I was able to calm it down.”
Stanton wasn’t the only one to leave an impression on the game. Luis Severino picked up right where he left off in 2017. He tossed 5.2 innings of shutout ball, striking out seven in the process. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning. The young right-hander was electric.
Many questioned the Yankees’ pitching staff heading into the season. Some wondered if Severino could repeat his success from last year. He did so, and in style too. This was the best Opening Day start by a Yankees pitcher in over a decade. He will carry that with him for a little while.
While Stanton and Severino were the standouts, the win proved a team effort. Brett Gardner launched a solo home run, and Aaron Judge doubled. The relief corps, with the exception of Dellin Betances, tossed shutout ball. Even Betances, who gave up a homer to the first batter he faced, settled down. Everything went according to plan.
Opening Day can be cruel. For a recent stretch of time, it was especially so to the Yankees. Yesterday, though, the team got the upper hand. They picked up a win by following their preseason strategy. Boone just had to let this one play itself out. Score early thanks to the power bats, have a quality outing from a starter, then turn it over to a lockdown bullpen. The season will be long and winding, with many unpredictable detours and frustrations. This one got off to the right start, though, and it’s worth enjoying.