There’s no reason to fret three games into the season. That said, if a few hitters get off to a slow start or if an offense as a whole struggles to get runners in, some will surely feel antsy, particularly when said offense belongs to a Yankees team with World Series expectations.
Of course, while the Yankees failed to get many big hits over their first few games, they still worked opposing pitchers and had the look of a lineup ready to bust out. It was only a matter of time until they started to produce some crooked numbers, until the dam broke. Well, the dam showed cracks today, the Yankee offense flashed its might, and the Bombers downed the Orioles 7-0.
The scoring started in the fourth, with Aaron Judge taking Jorge López deep for his first dinger of the year. It was the kind of homer that could drive the home fans crazy if it came from a visitor, with Judge’s fly ball just barely finding itself clear of the short porch in right:
They all look the same in the box score, and the Yankees had a 1-0 lead.
Yet if every four-bagger counts the same on the scoreboard, they don’t all feel the same. No, Giancarlo Stanton’s grand slam in the fifth not only broke open the game, but evoked an almost primal feeling in anyone who saw it:
Aaron Hicks had driven in a run with a walk two batters before, so Stanton’s biblical blast put the Yankees up 6-0. They loaded the bases again in the next inning, and DJ LeMahieu tacked on another run with an RBI single, but Judge and Hicks failed to extend the lead further.
This all came in support of Jordan Montgomery, making his first start of the campaign. He looked sharp from the outset, breezing through the Orioles’ order on his first trip through. His only jam came in the fifth, when a pair of singles put runners on the corners with two outs, but Montgomery retired Ryan McKenna to extinguish the threat.
Otherwise, the lefty had Baltimore’s batters on their heels, pounding the zone and deftly cycling through his deep arsenal to keep the opposition in the dark about what was to come. He attacked the first few Orioles with fastballs, then relied more on his changeup and cutter in the middle innings. The result was an unsettled group of O’s, with Montgomery generating a chunk of swings and misses and only a couple of hard-hit balls. With the lead well in hand, Montgomery departed after 73 pitches across six innings, having allowed four hits and struck out seven without walking a batter.
Maybe the only concerning development for Montgomery in his debut was his struggle to hold velocity as the night progressed. His fastballs came in between 93-95 mph in the first inning, but flitted just above and below 90 later in the outing. His first cutter came in at 90 mph; the last, at 87. Surely, Montgomery is still building up out of spring training. Look for him to better maintain his strength throughout a start as the season moves along.
Also a nice story developing in the early going is that of the Yankee bullpen. The team’s less-heralded relief arms have stepped up with the group short-handed in the absence of Justin Wilson, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman. Jonathan Loaisiga and Michael King starred over the weekend, and tonight, Luis Cessa provided two shutout innings following Montgomery. A few quality outings from the Yankees’ depth pieces only mean so much, not with so much season left ahead, but it’s a fine start to build on for the club’s backend arms.
With his two-game suspension over, Chapman did get his first work in tonight, navigating a scoreless ninth to bring the contest to a conclusion. He breached 101 mph with his fastball and looked solid despite having accumulated some rust since spring training’s end.
The 7-0 win put the Yankees back at .500, and they’ll have their second shot at moving above breakeven tomorrow night with their ace on the mound. That one goes off at 6:35 EST, or, roughly the time we can expect Stanton’s grand slam to come back down. With any luck, this date with the Orioles will bring the Bombers their first winning streak of the season.