The Yankees may have the best pound-for-pound lineup in the AL, but they couldn’t produce much of anything on Opening Day. The pitching staff mostly did its job, but the end result was a 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays in 10 innings to open the year.
No Yankee needs a good 2021 like Gary Sánchez, and indeed, nobody needs to start the season well like Gary. For at least Opening Day, he was the star of an otherwise lackluster Yankees lineup. In the second inning, with his team down 1-0, Sánchez took advantage of a chance to begin his year on a high note.
A long two-run home run is a pretty good day, but Gary also beat out an infield single (really), took a big walk in the ninth inning, and threw out Randal Grichuk from behind the plate. I think we’ve all learned that you have to take the bad with the good when it comes to Gary Sánchez, but as long as he has a few more games like he did today, his season stats will take care of themselves.
Hyun Jin Ryu stymied the Yankees for the most part, leaning heavily on his changeup and catching Yankee batters off guard with the fastball. Both Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge were fooled by a 91-mph heater while looking offspeed. I’m not sure if Ryu is a crafty lefty or just a guy who understands his arsenal and how to make it work, but either way, he did his job holding a potent club at bay.
Gerrit Cole struck out two of the three outs recorded in the second inning, in a good example of the reason why K% is better than K/9. The second was the only frame Cole where looked worried, or even touchable, as he surrendered three hits and the game’s first run. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. squared up a slider that Cole left in the zone to drive in Teoscar Hernández, putting the Jays up, 1-0.
After that inning, Cole was on cruise control through the fifth, allowing just one other hit while striking out seven and walking one. A high pitch count had us wondering whether Cole would come out for the sixth, and he certainly looked worn in his final bit of work:
A long Hernández home run followed up by a walk to Vlad Guerrero Jr. ended Cole’s day, with a final line of 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8K on 97 pitches. I initially thought that he was throwing the slider in the zone more than normal, but as the game wore on he began to shift it back away from right handed hitters. Overall, a good start that left us wanting a little more.
Unquestionably the most maddening part of today came in the ninth, when the Yankees were able to put two men on, and pinch-runner Mike Tauchman stole second and third. With the winning run 90 feet away, DJ LeMahieu grounded the ball to Cavan Biggio, who came home to retire Tauchman:
Aaron Judge struck out a batter later, and after that, it felt like the wind was out of the club’s sails.
The Jays took the lead in the 10th when Grichuk laced a leadoff double against Nick Nelson to score Jonathan Davis with the go-ahead run. (Davis was on second due to the extra-innings rules, which are still in play for 2021). Nelson worked out of the jam, but the Yankees couldn’t counter in their half of the 10th against Julian Merryweather, who struck out the side to end the ballgame. But hey, 161-1 is still in view.
The Yankees take tomorrow off and come back to face the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon, with a 1:05pm Eastern start time. Corey Kluber will make his Bronx debut against Ross Stripling.