The biggest story coming into the game for the Yankees was the debut of Corey Kluber. The new Yankees’ starter has missed nearly the entirety of the last two seasons with injury. When someone misses that amount of time, there’s plenty of reasons to have some concern, no matter the player’s pedigree.
While his outing wasn’t perfect by any means, there’s plenty of reasons to be intrigued after first start as a Yankee. In four innings, Kluber allowed two runs on two runs on five hits and three walks with two wild pitches and a hit by pitch. However, he also struck out five and showed flashes of the pitcher that won two Cy Youngs once up a time.
Between him and the bullpen, which allowed just three hits over the last five innings, the Yankees were in control for most of the afternoon. Thanks to some timely hits from Gary Sánchez and Jay Bruce, the Yankees were able to ride the pitching outing to a 5-3 victory, getting into the win column for the first time this season.
After Kluber got big double plays in the both of the first two innings, the Yankees opened the game’s scoring with a little two-out rally in the second. After Ross Stripling retired the first two hitters, Gio Urshela kept the frame alive with a single. Clint Frazier followed that with a double, bringing DJ LeMahieu to the plate. LeMahieu hit a slow roller down the third base line. Cavan Biggio fielded it cleanly and got a decent throw off, but it pulled Vladimir Guerrero Jr. off the base, scoring Urshela.
The Blue Jays struck back and evened the score in their very next inning. With one out, Kluber got a little wild, walking two and throwing a wild pitch. He struck out the next batter he faced, but on strike three Marcus Semien attempted to steal second. Sánchez’s throw to second got away from Gleyber Torres, allowing a run to score.
Sánchez would make up for that mistake a bit later. In the fourth, he took Ross Stripling deep for a solo home run, putting the Yankees back in front. It was his second of the season, and he’s now just the second Yankees’ catcher to homer in his first two games of the season, joining Elston Howard in 1963. An interesting fact is that Howard won the AL MVP in ‘63. Just saying.
The Yankees went on to add another run in the inning after that. Frazier walked, and both LeMahieu and Judge both singled to load the bases. Aaron Hicks then hit a grounder that Semien kept in the infield, but couldn’t make a real play on. Hicks picked up an infield single that scored Frazier.
Kluber came back to start the fifth, but allowed a home run to Semien in the first at-bat of the inning. That would be it for him, as Aaron Boone brought in Jonathan Loaisiga, who threw two impressive scoreless innings.
In the sixth, the Yankees added to their lead thanks to a birthday boy. Toronto reliever Rafael Dolis record two outs, but also walked the bases loaded, getting him pulled and brining Bruce to the plate. On his 34th birthday, Bruce recorded his first hit as a Yankees, just dropping a single in to score two runs.
Lucas Luetge was brought in for the seventh, making his Yankees’ debut and first MLB appearance since 2015. Toronto got a run off the reliever thanks to a single and a couple wild pitches. However, none of the contact off him, even the single was particularly hard.
For the eighth, Boone brought in Darren O’Day. The inning started poorly, as O’Day allowed two singles on soft contact bloopers (the harder hit had an exit velocity of just 70.9). He bounced back, getting the next two out and then turned it over to Chad Green to finish the inning. Green was also trusted to come back out for the ninth, and finished things off with ease.
Opening Day may not have been the perfect start, but after all that, a 161-1 record is still technically in play.