The Yankees lost Opening Day today 3-2. They had the lead and couldn’t keep it, and then they couldn’t take it back despite a few chances. The top of the order couldn’t do anything and that was that. Annoying, but there are 161 games left in the season. It will be fine and the Yankees will hit.
It’s time to get to the first takeaways of 2021, which will begin after the jump.
1. Gerrit Cole, Still An Ace: Friends, it feels good to root for a team with Gerrit Cole at the helm. I mean, just look at this:
That is really just beautiful stuff right there. Pitches like that helped Cole strike out eight Blue Jays in 5.1 innings of work, generating a 28% whiff-per-swing rate on the day. Of those, his slider was most effective, as the Jays whiffed on 50% of their swings against the offering. While it was just 15% against the fastball, it was not for lack of velocity:
Cole, on Opening Day, topped out at 100 miles-per-hour and averaged 96 on the fastball on the day. Like I said the other day, he is clearly ready for the season. His velocity, coupled with his pure stuff, helped him cut through the Jays order pretty easily. He really only ran into trouble in the second and the sixth, his final frame of the day.
In the second, Cole surrendered three straight singles (though he was not helped out by Torres’ third-base side defense), but worked around it with strikeouts to end the inning. And, in the sixth, he just hung a cement mixer right down the middle of the plate:
That, predictably, resulted in this:
That’s about exactly what you’d expect from a pitch like that. It doesn’t matter if you’re Gerrit Cole or a AAA journeyman. That is a pitch that is going to get destroyed at the Major League level. Unfortunately, this pitch tied up the game and surrendered the lead. Oh well.
To be honest, Cole got hit around pretty hard today. The softest contact against him was 85 miles-per-hour, and there was a whole lot of red in this:
But, as I said before, his stuff is so good that is able to work around even this. It also helps that he was clearly deceptive even here, as the Jays hit a ton of those balls either into the ground or straight into the air. It wasn’t the most dominant performance of Cole’s career, but it was also a very good start. Don’t tell him that, though: our resident psychopath was not pleased with his performance.
2. Gary Redemption Tour: Storylines are not made on Opening Day, but you’ve gotta feel good about how Gary Sánchez looked today. Love him or doubt him, Gary is undoubtedly a key cog in the machine. It is not a coincidence that his best two seasons (2017 and 2019) were also the Yankees best seasons of late. He was obviously horrendous last year though so the spotlight is on him. If Opening Day is any indication, then he’s ready to meet the challenge. Just look at this:
Beautiful. Just beautiful. That gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead, which they obviously did not hold. He also added a single and a walk to go 2-3 and reach base three times on the day. That’s what you like to see, and this was a Gary that was virtually non-existent all year last year. Two things really stood out to me.
The first is that he hammered the ball. He didn’t hit a ball softer than 92 miles-per-hour today. That is good (and it is more of the same for him). And he was patient at the plate, which is also crucial for him. Look at this:
Good stuff all around from Gary. He looked like a confident hitter up there and I do think that makes a huge difference. He also threw out a runner on an attempted steal, so this was Gary at his best. More of that, please.
3. Blown Opportunities at the Plate: You can’t say the Yankees didn’t have their chances at the plate this afternoon. They only had six hits, sure, but they also worked five walks. The last few innings were especially infuriating. Here were the scenarios, all with the game tied:
- 7th inning: bases loaded, 1 out for Aaron Judge
- 9th inning: runner on 2nd with no out and then runner on 3rd with one out for DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge
They did not score any runs in either scenario. That is not what you want to see! The game was really right at their fingertips not once but twice, and it didn’t matter. They couldn’t get it done. The 9th was especially frustrating – Judge at least hit it really hard in the 7th – because they had three chances with two of their best hitters. Oh well.
The 10th was frustrating in its own way, but Julian Merryweather just mowed down Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gleyber Torres. It was like they were nothing. Everyone should just make more contact, though, because it’s very easy to do that against a guy with a wicked change who throws 100 mph. Oh well. The offense will come. It’s one game, guys, and it’s not even a trend:
4. Relievers Do the Job: It was a rough day for the offense, but the pitching honestly did the job. Even though the bullpen is thin with injuries and a suspension, the B-team relievers stepped up and did the job. The bullpen, which today included Chad Green, Jonathan Loaisiga, Darren O’Day, and Nick Nelson, pitched 4.2 innings, surrendered 3 hits, struck out 5, walked none, and allowed just one run. That will do the job, in my book.
Unfortunately, that one run was enough to seal the deal. It came in the 10th from Nick Nelson, who was tagged with the loss. He struck out the next three guys, at least, and he only gave up the run because of the obscenely stupid extra innings rule that I forgot about until now. This formula will work for the Yankees in the long run, though, especially as these guys (minus Green) are bumped down in the rung a little.
- Gleyber Defense: More annoying defense from Gleyber Torres today. He didn’t get to a grounder to his right in the second – something Randy and Matt have pointed out as an issue time and time again – and also botched a pretty routine grounder in the top of the 9th. I am far from a Gleyber defensive pessimist, as I think he can and will be fine at short, but it was an inauspicious start to say the least. (Aaron Boone, for what it’s worth, agreed in his post-game conference.)
- Mike Tauchman, Stolen Base Extraordinaire: The Yanks didn’t score in the 9th, but it was not because of Mike Tauchman. The much-maligned (by us) reserve outfielder stole two bases after pinch running for Gary. In a win, we’d be singing his praises for making it happen, so we should do that now, too. Not his fault that his teammates didn’t do the job behind him.
- Green’s Curve is Here: Green threw 6 curves today, which was good for 35 percent of his total. He’s been throwing a ton more of them in the spring than he did last year, and today was another step in that direction. Interesting development. I’m not 100% sure he needs to throw this many, so it’s something we’ll monitor for now.
- Darren O’Day is Cool: That’s really all I have to say. I love the look he brings and the fact that he brings such low velocity. Just love it.
The Yanks and Jays are off tomorrow in the MLB annual tradition. They’ll resume the season on Saturday at 1:05 pm in the Bronx. Ross Stripling and Corey Kluber will take the hill for each team. YES will have the broadcast locally and it will be on MLB Network nationally. WFAN, of course, has the radio. Have a good night, everyone.