Bullpen work lone highlight in Yanks’ opener
Trying to find positives for the Yankees in their season-opening, 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays Monday before a packed house at Yankee Stadium is not easy. It was an admittedly disappointing day. Teams like to send people home happy when the crowd is as many as 48,469 people.
Unfortunately, the Yankees are getting used to Opening Day failures. This was their fourth straight Opening Day loss. They are 1-6 in season lid-lifters at the current Stadium. Not even playing the Blue Jays, who have been patsies at the Stadium in recent years, could help the Yankees, who are 29-6 over their past 35 games against the Jays at the Stadium.
The Yankees’ offense, a major problem in 2014, got off to a shaky start with only one run — on a Brett Gardner home run — and merely two other hits, both singles. The 3-through-6 hitters in the order were a combined 1-for-14. New shortstop Didi Gregorius slapped some nice leather in the field and showed off abundant range, but he made a rock on the bases in the eighth by making the third out trying to steal third base with cleanup batter Mark Teixeira at the plate and trailing by five runs. Manager Joe Girardi wrote it off to Gregorius trying to do too much to impress in his first game with the Yankees.
All right, so we know the bad stuff. How about the good?
Well, start with the bullpen. Starter Masahiro Tanaka was so-so through four innings, but five relievers combined for one-run, one-hit relief with six strikeouts in five innings. Righthander Chris Martin was particularly impressive by striking out the side — Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson — in the fifth inning. Tall order that. Martin became only the second Yankees pitcher since 1914 to strike out every batter he faced in his debut appearance for the team. The other was righthander Edwar Ramirez with three punchouts July 3, 2007 against the Twins.
Yankees pitchers’ 12 strikeouts for the game matched the club record for an opener set April 6, 2012 at St. Petersburg, Fla.
Gardner, who displayed improved power last year with 17 home runs, took winning pitcher Drew Hutchison deep in the sixth for the Yankees’ first round-tripper of 2015. It was the 100th Opening Day home run in Yankees history and their first since Raul Ibanez two years to the day earlier at St. Petersburg, Fla.
Alex Rodriguez, who was treated somewhat favorably by the crowd most of the afternoon, reached base his first two times up with a walk and a single.
The only other good news for the Yankees is that a season is more than one day.