First win of the season? Check. The Yankees played well in all facets of the game and toppled the Rays 5-0 at the Trop. CC Sabathia was solid, the bullpen held down the fort, and the offense was full of (pleasant) surprises. Here’s how it went down:
Just as we all expected
Who had Ronald Torreyes hitting the Yankees’ first home run of the season? The five-foot-eight shortstop hit no cheapie, jumping on a Jake Odorizzi fastball in the third to blast a two-run home run. The blast gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead.
The man Joe Girardi calls “Toe” continued the trend of unsuspecting first home run hitters for the Yankees over the past few seasons. Didi Gregorius touched off on the Yankees’ initial homer last year and Brett Gardner delivered the first blast in each of the two seasons prior.
Lost in the...ceiling?
Though Brett Gardner doubled right after the Torreyes dinger, it didn’t look like the Yankees would push him across once Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird struck out. It didn’t look like Gardner would score when Holliday lifted a towering fly ball to left, either. That is, until we saw the camera on Rays’ left fielder Peter Bourjos who had no clue where the ball would land. It plopped well behind him, near the warning track, and Holliday got a cheap RBI double. That made it 3-0 Yankees.
Ahead of schedule
Last season, Chase Headley didn’t have an extra base hit until May 12. He didn’t waste much time this year, putting the Yankees up 4-0 with a solo blast against Odorizzi to dead center in the sixth inning.
Headley tacked on another run in the eighth with - you guessed it - a hit through the shift. We saw him do that three times on Sunday. For good measure, Headley swiped second not long after his RBI single.
It’s nice to see Headley come out of the gate strong. Hitting a home run after tallying three hits on Monday must be good for his confidence. Remember, Headley was solid in 2016 once he broke out of his rut in May. There’s nothing sexy about Headley’s game, but he should be a reliable player this season and it’s a positive to see him hitting right away.
Five and fly
Sabathia’s recipe for success last season was his ability to induce weak contact. Though there was some help on defense tonight (i.e. Jacoby Ellsbury’s catch in the first and Headley’s line drive snag in the third), there was weak contact aplenty in tonight’s game. Sabathia generated eight groundouts and two pop outs on the evening. That’ll do, even when he only strikes out two opponents.
Of course, one would like to see more length from Sabathia (or any pitcher). Yet, at CC’s age, five shutout innings on 85 pitches is rather satisfying. It’s also his first start, so there isn’t much reason to push him. That said, I don’t expect many outings of more than five or six innings from Sabathia this season, and that’s fine. At this stage of his career, Sabathia is the kind of pitcher who should rarely be allowed to go through a lineup for a third time. Especially with a strong bullpen behind him.
The (sort of) bullpen formula
For a short while, it appeared that we’d get our first look of Joe Girardi’s end of game routine in the bullpen: Tyler Clippard for the seventh, Dellin Betances in the eighth, and Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. We wound up seeing Clippard with a four run lead in the seventh, but once the Yankees increased the lead to five, Girardi tabbed Jonathan Holder for the eighth.
Holder retired one batter and allowed two hits, which caused Girardi to fall back to his safety net. In came Betances, who walked Evan Longoria to load the bases. Dellin then punched out Rickie Weeks and put away pinch hitter Logan Morrison on a grounder to first to escape the jam. I'd have preferred a bit more leeway for Holder to work out of a runners on first and second with one out jam, but alas.
In a non-save situation, Aroldis Chapman entered and shut the door. With an off day on Thursday, it shouldn't be a big deal to use any of the big three relievers tomorrow night, if need be.
Greg Bird recorded his first hit of the season and since 2015 on a bloop double to left. It was kind of odd to see the bench request the ball for keeps considering he has a bunch of big leagues hits already, but it is a nice accomplishment for Bird to come back from the injury he had. Just a little memento.
Bryan Mitchell made his first appearance of the season, tossing a clean sixth inning. His role is still somewhat undetermined. Though it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mitchell get a handful of starts this year, it seems like the Adam Warren one-size-fits-all role would fit him well. Tonight was a taste of middle relief.
The Yankees (1-1) and Rays (1-1) play the rubber match of the season opening series tomorrow at 7:10pm. Michael Pineda opposes Alex Cobb.