It is high, it is far, it issss…GONE! It didn’t take long for Yankee fans listening on the radio to have a chance to hear John Sterling’s famous home run call. In fact, it happened less than an inning into the 2019 Major League Baseball season after designated hitter Luke Voit lifted a low fastball down the middle of the plate way out into center field and over the fence. Voit’s three-run home run helped the New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 7-2 sending the fans home happy from the Bronx Thursday afternoon.
By: Michael Eric Rosenthal
The Yankees always have a ton of pressure and attention on them naturally, but after some excitement and success from young talent during the first seasons with former Yankee player Aaron Boone as the manager, expectations are high. The team came off of a 100-win season last year, and as impressive as that was, other American League teams also won around that many games last season. Because the league-leading Red Sox were in the same division, the Yankees were relegated to the one-game Wild Card round playoff game, which they won in order to advance to the Divisional Round, marking the second year in a row that the team did so.
Fans want a deeper run this year and one that will bring home the team’s 28th World Series championship, especially with some key offseason re-signings and new acquisitions of stars like pitcher Gio González. Veteran ace and World Series champion C.C. Sabathia is one of the players who the Yankees got back on contract, and he announced during spring training that this season would be his last. Sabathia is currently serving a five-game suspension for throwing a beanball during a spring training game. In old-school baseball parlance, a beanball is what you call a pitch intended to hit the batter.
The day started out with legendary closing pitcher and first-ballot hall-of-famer Mariano Rivera returning to the mound in the Bronx to throw the ceremonious opening pitch on opening day. The fans cheered and cheered again as the team was announced and then once more during the infamous “Bleacher Creature curtain call,” when the fans sitting in the outfield bleacher seats chant every name of the Yankee players on the field at the top of the first inning until the players turn around and acknowledge the fans. But they probably didn’t think they would be back up on their feet so quickly again, but with just one out in the bottom of the first, Voit took one deep to right-center to put a quick three runs on the board.
Voit’s home run gave Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka plenty to work with as he put in a solid first outing, going almost six innings and giving up six hits and only one earned run. He also didn’t walk anybody, which gives him almost an average of just one baserunner allowed per inning. The bullpen continued to look strong like it did last year, getting the final 10 outs of the game and allowing only three baserunners. Voit was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning but was okay.
While the Yankees mostly kept the Orioles at bay, left fielder Trey Mancini put in a nice game by accounting for both runs scored by the Orioles. He went 3-4, came across home plate once himself after a base hit, and knocked in a run on a double, which is what knocked Tanaka out of the game an out shy of pitching a full six innings. Tanaka overall looked pretty good but didn’t entirely have his best stuff today, but good coaching kept him calm, and he took care of business and handed the baton to the bullpen.
The Yankees looked good coming into the final innings but could have used some more insurance runs, and that chance came in the seventh inning with runners on first and second and only one out. In a bizarre play, the catcher dropped a popup a few feet in front of the plate. No infield fly rule was called, and the catcher threw out the baserunner at first, and then the second baserunner got caught and tagged in a rundown between second and third bases to end the inning.
After a solid top of the eighth, the Yankees got some insurance anyway following a leadoff solo shot by first baseman Greg Bird into the rightfield bullpen off left-handed pitcher Paul Fry. The shot left the rightfielder turning and staring as the centerfielder leapt onto the fence but came nowhere near the ball. Aroldis Chapman continued his performance into the ninth to give the Yankees a perfect record of 1-0 and tied for top spot in the league, for now of course. While the team in all likelihood will not win every single game, fans do hope that the team can sit atop the entire league again and go into the postseason with a top seed and homefield advantage.
“What a day. Just great at-bats,” Boone said after the game, especially in reference to Voit. “Opening day comes with a lot of butterflies and excitement,” he added, but he thinks that his core guys did a great job of “setting the tone” and getting the victory. Speaking about Tanaka, he was encouraged by what he saw despite some command problems. He talked about how his star pitcher is always a pitch away from an out because his pitchers are so hard to hit squarely.
The weather was pretty nice for the end of March in New York, especially after last opening day suffered from a few feet of snow accumulation. With the cooler weather, bigger lead by the Yankees, and rush hour, the stadium was pretty empty by the end of the game. If the Yankees continue winning though, the Bronx may be burning yet again.
The other team in town won today too but played down by the nation’s capital instead of out in Queens. The Jewish Voice has plenty more coverage of opening day, including a recap of the New York Mets 2-0 win over the Washington Nationals.