Didi Gregorius produced an Opening Day for the ages. He went 4-for-4 with a single, double, and a pair of three-run homers. Didi drove in eight runs, setting a new single-game franchise record for most by a shortstop. He also became only the sixth shortstop in MLB history to accomplish the feat. In cold and rainy conditions, the Yankees defeated the Rays 11 — 4 in front of a sparse crowd at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees dealt the first blow in the bottom of the second. Gregorius led off by banging a double off the right-field wall and Neil Walker drew a one-out walk. Following a hard line-out by Brandon Drury, Tyler Wade scored Didi with a single to right. New York missed an opportunity to increase its lead, though, as Tyler Austin struck out, stranding Walker and Wade.
Tampa Bay came right back to tie the game in the top of the third. Catcher Jesus Sucre singled off the glove of a diving Wade to lead off. Following a Daniel Robertson walk, Sucre moved to third when Rob Refsnyder grounded into a force play and scored on a Matt Duffy grounder. Drury threw the ball away trying to get Duffy out at first, and the runners moved up to second and third.
Then, in New York’s defensive play of the game, Brett Gardner caught a Kevin Kiermaier medium-depth fly ball and made a perfect throw home to nail Refsnyder trying to score. Sanchez applied the tag a fraction of a second before Refsnyder touched the plate to complete the double play and end the threat.
The Bombers took the lead again immediately in the bottom half of the frame. Gardner and Aaron Judge singled, then Didi lined a shot that cleared the wall down the right-field line. The three-run homer gave the Yankees a 4 — 1 lead.
Jordan Montgomery pitched into and out of trouble in the fifth. After walking the first two batters, he induced Matt Duffy to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. Robertson moved to third on the play, but Montgomery struck out Kiermaier to escape the jam.
New York’s starting pitching has been great. Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, and Sonny Gray allowed three earned runs — combined — over 20 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays. Montgomery extended the rotation’s early-season success today. The left-hander limited the Rays to one run on two hits over five innings. Unfortunately, he suffered a no-decision as the bullpen blew the lead for the second straight game.
Jonathan Holder came on to relieve Montgomery to begin the sixth. He struck out Carlos Gomez, but then allowed a double to C.J. Cron. Cron moved to third on a Wilson Ramos single and came around to score the Rays’ second run when Adeiny Hechavarria dropped a bloop single in front of Judge in right field. Sucre singled to load the bases before Tommy Kahnle replaced Holder. Kahnle also struck out the first batter he faced, but then served up a two-run double to Denard Span which knotted the game at four.
New York took the lead for good in the seventh. Austin led off with a double to left. In an attempt to sacrifice him along, Gardner laid down a perfect push-bunt on the grass to the third-base side of the mound. Duffy threw the ball away, scoring Austin and moving Gardner to second. Judge singled him to third. Then, following a Giancarlo Stanton strikeout, Gregorius belted his second three-run blast of the game to give the Yankees an 8 — 4 advantage.
In the eighth, Gardner singled to load the bases after Wade and Austin walked. Judge worked a walk to force in the Yankees’ ninth run. Didi then scored Austin and Gardner on a bloop single that dropped in front of left fielder Span to complete the scoring.
The bullpen settled down after the sixth-inning meltdown. Kahnle struck out the side in the seventh, David Robertson pitched a 1-2-3 eight, and Chasen Shreve sat the Rays down in order in the ninth to close out the victory. Kahnle got credit for the win, while Austin Pruitt took the loss for Tampa Bay.
The Rays also benefited from a tremendous defensive play. With two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the sixth, Wade hit a ball deep to right field. Gomez timed his leap perfectly and caught the ball over the top of the wall. The highlight-reel catch robbed Wade of his first career home run and prevented the Yankees from taking a 5 — 4 advantage.
The Yankees seek the two-game series sweep tomorrow. Blake Snell opposes Luis Severino. The Yankees’ right-hander pitched spectacularly on Opening Day in Toronto, yielding just one hit over 5 2/3 scoreless frames. First pitch is 1:05 PM EDT and you can watch on YES and MLBN.