NEW YORK — Coach wasn’t the hardest hit ball of the day — and it wasn’t even close, because that tribute belonged to heat-seeking Giancarlo Stanton’s right-court bench — but it was exactly what Josh Donaldson needed to make an impression on his first opening day with the Yankees.
Donaldson’s 11th strike rebounded on a pair of Red Sox defenders, leaving second baseman Trevor Storey lame-less on the outside turf at Yankee Stadium. Isiah Kiner-Falefa slipped home with the decisive round as the Bombers flashed some courage, and rallied for a 6-5 win over their arch rivals.
“It was great to help the team win my first game here,” Donaldson said. “I feel like we showed some resilience today. We got off early; a couple of big crawlers. We kept that up, we kept trying to smash the bats, and it kept us in the ball game.”
Donaldson is the third Yankee team since the RBIs became official in 1920 to score the RBI’s first Yanks debut, joining Roy Weatherly (1943) and Chase Headley (2014). It was also the club’s sixth opening-day win in franchise history (1906 against Red Sox, 1908 against athletics, 1943 against Senators, 1949 against Senators and 1957 against Senators).
The afternoon was filled with many firsts – debuts in striped stripes for Donaldson and Keener Valiva, among others – and full of stories, from Aaron Judge refusing to extend the contract before the premiere to Gleyber Torres riding the bench as the odd man in a crowded mix, Only to be called up for a key chance in the 10th inning.
After two extraordinary opening days affected by the pandemic, a crowd of 46,097 lost enjoyed a full return to the Bronx on the day – perhaps one with many ounces of pomp and circumstance, in the eyes of right-hander Gerrit Cole, who barked during pre-game celebrations (including first pitch for Billy Crystal, low and out) Hold for a few minutes.
Cole described the partial delay as an “unexpected challenge,” as was Boston’s vociferous call in the first half, an unwanted flashback to last year’s American League Wild Card Game. Cole booed when JD Martinez doubled his Xander Bogaerts home with the third round of the Red Sox, then corrected himself to offer four rounds and 68 pitches — close to the maximum allowed, given the abbreviated spring training.
“There was a little bit of adrenaline today, especially in the first,” Cole said. “It took a minute to get the sights.”
The Yankees are backed from the back, showcasing the kind of muscle that Donaldson has unlocked should make them able to do “whatever we want” this season. Anthony Rizzo celebrated his comeback by hitting Homer out of two runs in his first hit of the year, then Stanton stunned the crowd with an 116.3 mph rocket that left the field in 3.5 seconds.
“I told the judge, ‘I’ve watched many Yankees games from afar, and I’ve seen a team score early but then score right back,'” said Rizzo, referring to the 2019 London Series among the contenders. “It was a nice reaction for us. One match could be the deciding factor in 162.”
Carrying the encouraging opposing field strength he’s shown this spring in the Games of Importance, delivering DJ LeMahieu in eighth, he even showed some emotion as he rolled the bases.
“Opening day. The rivalry game,” LeMahieu later said soberly. “Just excited.”
Torres battled encroaching shadows to raise the sacrifice fly in game 10, and earned a welcome confidence boost after coach Aaron Boone tackled the difficult task of telling the player he would need to sit for LeMahieu.
“I’m proud of him,” Boone said. “Maybe these past few days haven’t been easy at all.”
Torres’ fly blunted Michael King – 8th New York afternoon pitcher – off the hook after King let out a soft-calling Bogaerts song that chased home an automatic runner with the start cue. King Boston iced at the top of the 11, and crossed two.
“It’s the thing kids dream about, especially since I grew up as a Yankee fan in the Red Sox,” said King, who was born in Rhode Island and attended Boston College. “It’s just a fun atmosphere in this dressing room.”
Donaldson was the number one hitter in the eleventh half of his home run, and he will also be the last of the day.
“Total team win,” Donaldson said. “I hope it leads to good things in the future.”