BRONX, NY– Opening Day in the Bronx Thursday afternoon and the Yankees got the win, 5-0 over the San Francisco Giants. A shutout to start the season and 6-1 in their last six Opening Day games since 2018. Perfect for a Yankees team and their ace Gerrit Cole.
And there is always a time at Yankee Stadium when a win is significant, this one in particular because there are expectations to play baseball deep in October. A new season and erasing the lingering misery of an Astros four-game sweep last October in the ALCS.
Cole is a reason for optimism. And so is a 21-year old rookie shortstop, Anthony Volpe, who had an auspicious debut with a first at bat walk and stolen base walk in the fourth inning. Volpe heard the Bleacher Creatures in the outfield. He waved from his position in the infield when they chanted his name during the roll call.
Volpe raised his glove hand and lifted the interlocking NY part of his jersey to his lips. It was a rookie moment on a chilly day in the Bronx.
“It was probably the most fun day of my life,” Volpe said. “I probably had goosebumps the whole day.”
And for Aaron Judge, his first career Opening Day home run with a solo shot in the first inning. The reigning American League MVP is already ahead of his pace of that 2022 season single home run record of 62.
For the Yankees, with all the expectations this was the perfect way to begin. Cole tossed six scoreless innings and 11 strikeouts marked the most by a Yankee pitcher on Opening Day in franchise history.
If the Yankees are anything this season this was a prelude. But this was the first of 162. It was promising also for Gleyber Torres with his first Opening Day home run, a two run shot in the fourth inning, and when he hits to the opposite field it’s all good for the Yankees.
Cole said about Judge, “Came up and woke everybody up and showed us that he was here to play. It was a cool moment for him and it was just an inspiring moment for me and I just took it in stride.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone, fresh with a new three-year contract, said that Cole was sharp. He had the good stuff working with his fastball that moved. A changeup that was also difficult to hit.
But the Yankees were just about perfect. Even a bullpen that completed the job with three shutout innings and significant because the Yankees needed that late inning relief help that was an albatross more than once last year.
So with new rules in place of a pitch clock, larger bases, and no longer a shifted infield, the game was different. How about a game time of 2:33 on Opening Day, compared to an almost three and a half marathon last year.
Both Volpe and Torres got their opportunity and stole second base, the Yankees are going to take advantage of the larger bags and produce more runs instead of relying on their home run production.
And it was that pitch clock, the pace was quick and except for the Giants’ J.D. Davis, the first hitter called for a violation in the ninth inning, pitchers and hitters in the box are adapting to the new rule. Davis, who played three years for the crosstown Mets, is still adapting and was too long getting in the box that prompted a penalty of the automatic strike.
“I worked on it in the spring it was weird and looking at the pitch you have to do that,” Davis said. “I caught up looking at the signs. It’s a little more sense of urgency. Down in the count but the pitcher didn’t seem like he was ready to pitch. Gotta keep your head up.”
Davis, though, said the rules need some compromise or revision. “I think everything should be at 20 seconds regardless if a guy is on base.”
Leave that for another time, eventually all position players and pitchers will adapt to the pitch clock. For the Yankees, though, adapting to the new rules was not an issue. Thursday was an Opening Day of perfect baseball in the Bronx.
“Ever since I can remember, grade school, what I wanted to be when I grew up it was the New York Yankees,” Volpe said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Perfect for Anthony Volpe. Just as perfect for the New York Yankees and Opening Day in the Bronx.
Rich Mancuso Senior writer and co-editor Latinosports.com Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso
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