Baseball in the snow is a deal-breaker. Baseball on a rainy April afternoon? That’s nothing.
A little pregame rain couldn’t stop the New York Yankees from squeezing in their home opener against the Tampa Bay Rays a day later than planned, even if the weather prevented the Bombers’ power bats from putting on a show at Yankee Stadium.
Once baseball officially returned to the Bronx, it wasn’t the Yanks’ pair of 50-homer hitters who flexed their muscles first. Instead, it was Didi Gregorius who launched a pair of three-run home runs to right field and tallied eight RBIs in total en route to a 11-4 victory on a chilly Tuesday.
The shortstop first connected on the first offering from Rays righthander Chris Archer in the third inning to take a 4-1 lead. Later, in the seventh, righty reliever Austin Pruitt served up a high 0-2 fastball that Gregorius deposited in the main level seats in right. He added two more runs on a bloop single to left in the eighth inning. His eight RBIs are a career best and the most ever by a Yankees shortstop.
“One of those guys you like that he’s on your side,” first-year manager Aaron Boone told reporters after the game. “… It was quite a show he put on here today.”
Meanwhile, the newest of Yanks’ aforementioned big-time power bats had a day to forget. Giancarlo Stanton struck out five times to give him nine in 19 at-bats thus far in 2018. His dismal outing at the plate drew boos from the Bronx faithful.
“It just goes with the territory,” Boone said of the jeers toward Stanton. “I like when the big boy doesn’t get any and we’re able to score 11 because there’s going to be a lot of days where we hop on his back.”
On the plus side, fellow big bopper Aaron Judge reached base four times, going 2-for-3 with two walks and scoring on both Gregorius homers.
Starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery tossed five innings, allowing one earned run in the third on a throwing error by third baseman Brandon Drury. The lefthander struck out four but walked just as many in addition to giving up two hits.
Tampa Bay ace Archer struggled. Although he struck out eight Yankees in five innings of work, he allowed six hits and three walks. He allowed four earned runs for the second time in as many starts to begin the year.
Montgomery departed with a 4-1 lead after five, but reliever Jonathan Holder washed it away in the sixth. After striking out Carlos Gomez for the first out, the righthander surrendered four consecutive hits and a run. Fellow righty Tommy Kahnle was brought in to put out the fire, but Denard Span’s two-run double brought home two to tie the game at four runs apiece. Holder, charged with all three runs, saw his ERA skyrocket to 40.50 this young season.
Tyler Wade, who drove in the first run of the game in the second to score Gregorius, nearly smacked his first career homer to put the Yanks back up in the home half of the sixth. However, it was not to be as Carlos Gomez robbed him with an impressive leaping grab at the wall to end the inning.
Sound baseball strategy — and a bit of luck — put the Yankees back on top in the seventh. After Tyler Austin led off with a double, a would-be sacrifice bunt by Brett Gardner led to a throwing error by Rays third baseman Matt Duffy, scoring Austin to gain a 5-4 advantage. Gregorius opened up a four-run lead later in the inning with his second homer of the game and the season, giving the Yanks a comfortable 8-4 lead.
Judge worked a bases-loaded, one-out walk in the eighth to tack on another run. Gregorius brought home two more after Stanton’s fifth whiff to make it 11-4.