Fans returning to the Bronx for an Opening Day matchup between the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday, April 1 was anything but a joke – instead it was a cathartic moment for players and fans alike, one locally dampened by the Bombers 3-2, 10-inning loss.
It also featured the first application of the MLB’s new rule, which allows teams to start with runner on second base during extra innings, a policy that had ultimately led to the Yanks demise Thursday afternoon following missed offensive chances in the ninth.
This afternoon was the first time a twenty percent capped Yankees faithful could finally gaze in-person at right-handed star pitcher Gerrit Cole who faced off against Toronto’s Hyun-jin Ryu, a game where despite the team’s loss, he notched a few franchise-great moments.
The Cole train hit a slight delay in the second inning after the righty starter surrendered a no-out RBI single to left fielder Lourdes Gurriel following two consecutive hits – though the ace quickly worked out of his jam, igniting a raucous, sellout crowd of 10,850 with an inning ending, called strike three to Jays catcher Danny Jansen after a lengthy at-bat.
It mattered little as catcher Gary Sanchez launched a first pitch, two-run homer into the left field seats against Ryu the bottom half of that inning; it was his first ever Opening Day home-run.
GARY SANCHEZ GOES YARD❗
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) April 1, 2021
As the fourth inning came around, Cole etched two major milestones between three batters: his hundredth thrown strikeout as a Yankee, which was administered to right fielder Teoscar Hernández shortly followed by breezing Gurriel for his seventh K of the day, setting a franchise record of 10-consecutive games with at least seven strikeouts.
Though, Hernández saw his revenge against Cole by way of a solo home-run in sixth inning, tying the game a two apiece.
Righty Chad Green replaced Cole shortly after in that inning, ending his day at eight strikeouts, two runs on five hits, and two walks from 97 tosses on 5.1 innings pitched.
The Yanks were poised to strike in the bottom of the sixth with runners on first and second with two outs, but instead third baseman Gio Urshela grounded out against righty reliever Tyler Chatwood.
In the seventh inning, fans caught a glimpse of the new and improved Sanchez’s arm when he caught center fielder Randal Grichuk stealing second.
Sanchez singled in the bottom half of the inning and left fielder Clint Frazier did the same, bringing up second baseman and American League batting title holder DJ LeMahieu with one out to face reliever David Phelps with the score still deadlocked.
LeMahieu walked and right fielder Aaron Judge then came to the plate in a based loaded scenario, where he uneventfully grounded out into an inning ending double play.
Righty Jonathan Loaisiga came in to pitch the eighth inning where he put the side down in order; newly acquired sidewinder righty Darren O’Day debuted as a Yankee in the ninth and kept the game tied a two.
Despite having several opportunities to win in the ninth inning thanks to pinch running Mike Tauchman stealing both second and third base with only one out, the Yankees and Blue Jays went to extra innings.
As per the MLB’s new extra innings rule, the Blue Jays earned a 3-2 lead after righty Nick Nelson allowed an RBI double to Grichuk on the inning’s first at bat.
Blue Jays righty Julian Merryweather then struckout outfielder Aaron Hicks, designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton, and short-stop Gleyber Torres, ending a bummer in the Bronx for Yankees fans.
As Nelson was saddled with the loss, the Yankees offensensive struggles totaled at a combined 13 strikeouts and ten runners left stranded on base.
“They made the pitches today, we just couldn’t break through with a big hit, had our chances,” manager Aaron Boone said following the loss, adding that “we’ll be fine”offensively.
The Yankees skipper also praised Cole’s first outing back, admitting that he was kept on “a little bit of a pitch count.”
“I just want that slider back,” Cole said in reference to his only surrendered homer on the day.
Meanwhile, Sanchez was more spoken on his 2021 debut, saying “it feels good to get going this way, I spoke about consistency before and I think I had that today,” referring not only the two hits he had, but also his catching performance which followed “definitely (his) best spring training behind the plate.”
Judge also spoke to Sanchez’ current status, saying “I’ve been watching it all Spring…the guy looks like a different man.”
Number 99 also took ownership of “missed opportunities” on his part which could have swayed the game into a positive outcome for the bombers.
The Yankees next play Toronto on Saturday, April 3 in the Bronx at 1:05 p.m.