CC Sabathia, Ronald Torreyes and Chase Headley led the Yankees to their 1st win
The Yankees won their first game of the season, on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, as CC Sabathia pitched five shutout innings and threw 55 of his 85 pitches for strikes. This was the first time that he allowed less than three runs during his first start of the season since 2011 when he the Detroit Tigers scored two runs in six innings against him.
CC Sabathia had all his pitches working, commanded the inside corner and was able to hit 93 mph on the radar gun, which is about a mile per hour faster than last year. It was significant that Sabathia was able to have a dominant start after Masahiro Tanaka couldn’t last three innings on Sunday because Sabathia is one of the veteran leaders on the team. The former ace had a solid 3.91 ERA last season and the Yankees will sign up for a season equal to or better than that one this season.
The 36-year-old lefty only allowed three hits in his five innings while walking two and striking out two Rays. He was taken out after 85 pitches since there was no need to push him in his first start and since the Yankees had an off day on Monday.
In the fifth inning, the diminutive Ronald Torreyes made a Derek Jeter like play where he went into the hole and made a jump throw to first but the runner was safe since he couldn’t get enough velocity on the throw. Sabathia got Kevin Kiermaier to hit a chopper back to him at the mound with runners on first and second to end the frame for his last out of the game.
The Yankees ended up winning the game as a result of the three runners that crossed the plate in the third inning off of Rays starter Jake Odorizzi.
Torreyes, who nobody would have expected to hit the first homer of the season for the Yankees, hit a 400 foot blast to right center that scored Aaron Judge. This led to the 6–7, 282 pound Judge congratulating the 5–8, 151 pound Torreyes at home plate. Also, Judge hit 8th in the lineup and Torreyes hit 9th, which means that they are likely players with the largest size difference who followed each other in the lineup in MLB history.
Later on in the inning, Matt Holliday, who at 37 is the oldest player on the team and the veteran leader on offense, hit a double basically off the catwalk on the roof of Tropicana Field for an RBI double. Tropicana Field is the only stadium that Holliday could have hit that kind of a double.
Chase Headley, who ended April last season with a .150 average and didn’t hit his first extra base hit until May 12 (a home run), hit a long solo homer to deep center beyond Kiermaier in the sixth. In the eighth inning, with a drastic shift and nobody playing in the shortstop position, Headley hit smartly hit a grounder where the shortstop would normally be to drive in the team’s fifth run.
In the first two games of the season, Headley is five for eight and has impressively shown the ability to take advantage of the shift as he had a bunt for a single in game one and even has a steal. He is an under the radar player for the Yankees the season and will try to prove that he can be more like the player he was in 2012 when he was an All-Star than the player he was the last two seasons.
Greg Bird got his first hit of the season as hit a double down the line and the Yankees are expecting a lot from him this season after hitting eight homers in spring training. The main negative so far offensively is that Gary Sanchez in 0–10 with three strikeouts, but he has had a few that could have been hits and he is due to have a hot streak soon based on his stats during 53 games last season (.299, 20 homers, 42 RBI, .657 slugging percentage).
The bullpen was a strength as well on Tuesday night just like how it is expected to be this season. The relief pitchers combined to pitch four innings while striking out six and giving up only two hits.
Bryan Mitchell, who is back healthy this year after missing most of last season due to injury, pitched a perfect sixth and Tyler Clippard pitched a flawless seventh to go with two strikeouts.
Clippard got the third out on a strikeout swinging to end the seventh. He retired the side in order and continued being the high quality pitcher that he was with the Yankees last season in August and September.
Jonathan Holder earned a spot on the roster after pitching well during spring training and hasn’t allowed a run after appearing in the first two games of the season. He left the game after giving up two hits in the 8th but Dellin Betances was able to strikeout Rickie Weeks Jr. and get Logan Morrison to ground out to first.
For the first out in the ninth, Aroldis Chapman threw a 90 mph slider to get the strikeout after throwing a 101 mph fastball earlier in the at-bat. The intimidating closer is already in midseason form. For the second out, Chapman got Derek Norris to hit a broken bat ground out to Torreyes on a 97 mph fastball. Chapman struck out DanielRobertson, whose bat flew into the stands, on a 100 mph fastball to end the game.
Jacoby Ellsbury has been hitting fifth in the first two games of the season because Joe Girardi has decided to break up Brett Gardner and Ellsbury at the top of the lineup. Ellsbury had two hits on Tuesday, but Girardi will probably take move him out of that spot because he hasn’t shown much power in years.
Girardi will likely put Judge in the five hole later in the season when he is used to being an everyday player, or possibly move Headley or Didi Gregorius to that spot.
The Yankees will begin the series finale against the Rays tonight at 7:05 p.m.