Game 1: Stanton and Cole bring the thunder to DC

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Ho hum. A complete game one-hitter in Gerrit Cole’s debut? I think that’s just about what we all expected. In all seriousness, Cole delivered a solid rain-shortened performance while the ruthless combination of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and…Tyler Wade made things tough on Max Scherzer.

This one lasted just five-plus innings before it started to pour. After some apparent hemming and hawing, the game was finally banged with the final score 4-1 in favor of the Yankees. A good start, indeed. Let’s break it down.

A lineup that can wear out anyone

Look, last year’s Next Man Up mantra was a lot of fun. But let’s be real: seeing Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton wreak havoc in the middle of the lineup is better. It didn’t take long for the duo to remind us of what we missed for most of 2019. In the first inning, Stanton drove in Judge in spectacular fashion:

via Baseball Savant

459 feet. Off Max Scherzer, no less. Later, Stanton delivered a two-out RBI single against Scherzer in the fifth inning that put the Bombers up 4-1. Stanton’s had some success against Mad Max (two homers in 18 at-bats entering tonight) in the past and continued it tonight.

Scherzer clearly had good stuff tonight — he struck out 11 after all — but the Yankees lineup wore him out nonetheless. He threw 99 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, gave up six hits, and walked four. He did work a couple of 1-2-3 frames in the second and fourth, but for most of the game, the Yankees weren’t set down easily.

One other notable observation: Scherzer was slider-heavy tonight, which isn’t like him. To wit:

Pitch2019Tonight
Fastballs56.2%38.4%
Breaking29.4%61.6%
Offspeed14.5%0.0%

Look, it’s no secret that there are a number of Yankees hitters who are vulnerable to a slider as devastating as Scherzer’s. But seeing Max Scherzer deviate from his norm speaks to how challenging this lineup for one of the game’s best. This is the sort of thing the Bombers will continue to do this season, folks. Life will be quite difficult for opposing pitchers.

Gerrit Cole makes his debut

Opening day is always one of the most anticipated games of the year, but this one was special in a different way: it was the first time we set our eyes on Gerrit Cole in regular season action as a Yankee. I remember how excited I was to see CC Sabathia make his first start even though it didn’t go so well in Baltimore. Fortunately, things went pretty well for the Yankees’ new ace. It didn’t seem like he had his best command, but that didn’t stop him from holding down the fort.

Cole’s lone blemish came in the first inning. After he retired Trea Turner with a fly out to center to begin the bottom half, Adam Eaton hammered a middle-middle 98.1 MPH fastball into the seats:

Gerrit settled in from there, though. He retired 14 of the last 16 batters he faced, including ten in a row before he walked Asdrúbal Cabrera with one out in the fifth.

Now, that kind of run after Eaton’s dinger sounds pretty dominant, but I think Cole himself would admit things weren’t always easy. There were a few loud outs sprinkled in, including Eaton nearly taking him deep again in the third:

via Baseball Savant

Moreover, Cole didn’t rack up Ks like normal. After a league leading 326 punchouts last season, Cole struck out just five Nationals tonight. It was just one of those nights where he struggled to put away his opponents. Washington fouled off 14 of 75 pitches (18.7 percent) and whiffed 11 times (14.7 percent). Cole had a ridiculous 37.2 percent whiff rate last year, for reference.

Cole’s night was cut short as a result of the skies opening up in the top of the sixth. He surely would have gone out for another frame given his pitch count, but five innings of one run ball ain’t too shabby. Tallying a complete game is a nice consolation to boot.

If this is Cole off his game, sign me up. Call it nerves, call it a lack of sleep, or call it just a so-so day at the office. Whatever it was, Cole had a fine debut and his next start can’t come soon enough.

The Tyler Wade Experience

As you may have heard on the pod this week, Randy unexpectedly predicted that Wade would make an impact. Didn’t take long for that to happen!

Wade, who was incredibly bunt-happy tonight, worked a leadoff walk against Scherzer in the third inning. Gotta say, Scherzer really should not have thrown Wade a slider on 3-2. I know he was racking up strikeouts left and right tonight, but you don’t throw a guy like Wade a 3-2 slider with the top of the order right behind him. Anyway, Wade then scored from first on this Aaron Judge double:

The 25 year-old Wade wasn’t done though. In the fifth, with Gio Urshela on first and no one out, Wade used his legs again. He drag bunted for a single off Scherzer, maintaining his league leading 1.000 on-base percentage.

Two hours later…

Rain, rain…don’t go away. The skies opened up in the top of the sixth with one on and one out with Scherzer facing Wade once again. Officially one hour and fifty eight minutes late, plus one bluff on tarp removal and resumption of play, this ballgame was called. The final: 4-1 Yankees through five plus innings.

The bigger question though: how did the players remain safe in close quarters during the delay?

We’ll just have to take them at their word for this, but given what’s understood about inside transmission, this is a huge risk. Especially for the Nationals, as Juan Soto just tested positive while remaining with the team waiting for results!

Leftovers

Not much more to add in this rain-shortened affair:

  • Here’s the box score and win probability chart.
  • Brett Gardner and Gary Sánchez both went 0-for-3 against Scherzer with three strikeouts. Stanton and Judge had two hits a piece, while Urshela and Wade were the only others to reach base via hit.

There’s a scheduled off-day tomorrow, but the Yankees and Nats will return to action Saturday night. It’ll be another fun pitching matchup: James Paxton vs. Stephen Strasburg. See you then.

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What to watch for this weekend: Paxton’s velo, DJLM’s return, Andújar’s debut

1 Comment

  1. Gerreddardit Cole

    Well I thought it was the best win of the season, Derek. It was vintage Gerrit Cole and he proved last night that he’s worth every penny of that contract. It’s so nice to finally have an ace that can match up with the other team’s ace. I thought Tyler Wade was the MVP of the game. Boone needs to find a way to get him more playing time because he’s a pesky little pipsqueak. We may have finally found our Pedro Ciriaco. And it just goes to show you what small ball can do. Bunting and running the bases is a lost art.

    Wade, Judge and Stanton carried us. Gary looked lost. Gardy looked lost. Angel Hernandez looked lost. I think we woulda put up 7 or 8 runs had the game continued. We were threatening in the 6th and Max was done. The Soto news makes me think we can now sweep the series. Nats don’t really have much offense without him and Rendon. If Starlin Castro is your #3 hitter you’ve got problems.

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