2023 has felt more like Dostoevsky than a superhero comic, but tonight was a storybook in Space City. With five rookies in the lineup, the vibes were on an entirely different level. While both Jasson Domínguez and Austin Wells making their MLB debuts — and doing so with style — a trio of veterans each took Astros starter Justin Verlander deep in a 6-2 victory over perhaps the Yankees’ most hated rival.
Let’s start with the center fielder of the future. At 20 years old (the youngest Yankee in 39 years), Domínguez capped off an incredible season of development when he stepped into the box in the top of the first inning. After being cut from a strong spring training, he struggled initially at Double-A Somerset before surging, and then taking a week and a half to adjust to Triple-A. His modus operandi seems to be needing some time to adjust to each successful level before his natural talent takes over. So, the betting money was that he would need some time to adjust to facing pitchers like Justin Verlander.
The adjustment period lasted all of one pitch, a get-me-over curveball for strike one. A second-pitch fastball on the outer third was deposited into the Crawford Boxes, and the spark of a legend ignited in Yankee history.
For Wells, watching your fellow rookie start his career in such a way must have cranked up the pressure he was feeling, and indeed he had to battle a little bit more than the Martian against Verlander. Still, the 2020 first-round pick out of Arizona ended up with his first MLB hit himself:
A seven-pitch fight against a Hall of Famer, spoiling pitches with two strikes, and you get a base knock? It’s not quite as flashy as a two-run bomb, but I’m sure Wells wouldn’t change it for the world.
Ho-hum, the old guys on the team hit three other home runs:
DJ LeMahieu’s leadoff dinger set the tone early, Giancarlo Stanton got himself on the doorstep of the 400-Homer Club with No. 399, and Aaron Judge had a notable night of his own. The captain’s long blast to center field was the 30th of his season, which given that he missed two months of the year, lol. It was also the 250th of his career, making Judge the fastest player in the history of baseball to reach that mark.
There were so many milestones in this game you needed a spreadsheet to keep track of them. Perhaps the least important was a third-straight solid outing from Carlos Rodón. The southpaw went five innings, allowing a pair of runs, but all told did his job on a night when the offense showed up. Like the game thread, we’re all here to talk about the rooks, but in a season that has been so lost, he left the game with a lower ERA than he walked into it with, so that’s a plus!
I don’t know how much weight to place on “vibes” ... are the vibes good because a team is winning, or is a team winning because the vibes are good? Had Jasson and Wells come up and gone 0-for-8 with 6 K’s, not only would the outcome of the game be very different, but would we feel as optimistic as we do now?
This was on a very, very short list of the most fun games of the season. There are 27 games left in 2023, and not all of them will be as fun as this one. Still, all indicators are that successive lineups will look an awful lot like tonight’s, and even if we don’t kick off each game with The Martian going the other way for two runs, we’re going to have more fun than we did in July and August.
Hopefully, that fun continues in game two of this series tomorrow. The resurgent Luis Severino takes on rookie Hunter Brown, on primetime with a 7:10pm ET start time.