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Judge, Stanton power Yankees to Opening Day victory over Nationals

Gerrit Cole was sharp and the Yankees’ big boppers did their damage in a rain-shortened victory.

New York Yankees v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The rain held off long enough in the nation’s capital for the Yankees’ Opening Day to end with success. The Yankees brought the thunder at the batter’s box and on the mound, with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton driving in all four runs and Gerrit Cole thriving in his debut in a 4-1 Yankees win.

The Yankees didn’t waste any time ringing in the new baseball year. Judge singled with one out, collecting the first hit of the 2020 season, and advanced to second on a Gleyber Torres ground ball. Giancarlo Stanton came to the plate next, and absolutely pummeled a 1-1 cutter, sending the pitch 459 feet away into the left-center field cheap seats. For Stanton, it’s his third straight Yankees Opening Day where he’s hit a home run. With one swing of the bat, the Yankees were back like they’d never left.

By the time Cole took the mound for his heavily-anticipated Yankees debut, he was pitching with a 2-0 lead. However, it didn’t stay that way for long. Adam Eaton pounced on a 2-2 heater, the seventh pitch of the at-bat, and jumped the yard on Cole with a solo shot to right. Cole recovered to get out of the inning with the lead intact, but neither team’s ace was able to escape their first inning scoreless.

After a second inning where Scherzer struck out the side, the Yankees struck back in the third. Tyler Wade worked a walk, and then motored around the bases on a deep Judge double, scoring all the way from first. Wade’s aggressive baserunning, opportunistic against a great pitcher like Scherzer, proved vital when the next two batters failed to hit the ball out of the infield. After three innings, the Yankees held a 3-1 lead.

Meanwhile, Cole settled down after the dinger in the first. He retired 14 of the next 16 Nationals, striking out five. Neither of the two men who reached base did so with a hit either, giving Cole a final line of five innings, one hit, one run, one walk, and five strikeouts. Although he gave up the long ball early, Cole rebounded and turned in a strong performance in his rain-shortened Yankees debut.

The Yankees were able to get to Scherzer again in the fifth inning. Gio Urshela walked and Wade bunted for a hit, and although the next two batters went down, Giancarlo Stanton smacked a line drive single, scoring Urshela and extending the lead to 4-1. Brett Gardner struck out next, leaving the bases loaded, but it was a pleasant surprise plating four runs off of Scherzer in five innings, and a path to victory for the Yankees.

The Yankees were poised for even more in the sixth, but then the heavens opened up and lightning touched down near Nationals Park. Luke Voit walked and Urshela singled him to third, but right when Scherzer was on the ropes, the game was delayed amidst heavy rain and storms.

The teams waited in the clubhouse during an almost-two-hour rain delay, but the game was ultimately called after a little over five innings, with the Yankees winning 4-1. For the Yankees, it’s their third straight Opening Day victory, which has snapped a nasty streak where the team lost eight of nine Opening Days from 2009-2017.

The Yankees have the day off Friday, and will next be in action on Saturday night, when the forecast looks much better. James Paxton will take the ball for the Yankees, and he’ll be opposed by the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg. Saturday will be Strasburg’s first game against the Yankees, providing an interesting storyline. The Yankees’ 2020 season may have taken awhile to begin, but it’s off and running with a solid start.