After you lose a tough game on Opening Day, the best medicine is to show up at the ballpark the next day and absolutely dismantle the opposing team. That’s exactly what the Yankees did when they beat the Astros 16-6 to even their record at 1-1. The only real negative from the game was that Michael Pineda, a pitcher the Yankees need to be very effective this season, really struggled as he gave up six runs and three home runs in his five innings. His performance was very Nathan Eovaldi-like from early last season where Nate would labor through five but pick up the win because his offense went into an inferno. Luckily it was only Big Mike’s first start of the season so there’s no reason to panic at all.
Now let’s talk about the offense because OH BOY was that fun. In my Opening Day preview, I noted how this Yankees lineup has the potential to be one of the best in baseball – if they stay healthy of course – and they showed why last night in a big way. 16 runs, 17 hits, seven walks, a pair of stolen bases and three dingers. Can’t ask for much more than that! It was nice to see the Yankee offense really explode this early in the season and what was really important was the diverse way in which they scored runs. Only seven of the 16 runs came on home runs, something which the Yankees got way too reliant on last season. Nine RBI without using the longball is a great recipe for sustained success.
The onslaught began in the first inning when the Yankees scored six runs while sending 12 men to the plate. Jacoby Ellsbury worked the count full before reaching on catcher’s interference. Brett Gardner also worked the count full before drawing one of his four(!!) walks on the evening. Alex Rodriguez worked the count full – sense a pattern? – before working a walk of his own. Mark Teixeira worked the count full – this is how you know the Yankees are clicking when they work the count all night – before singling home Ellsbury from third. Four batters, all were able to get the count to 3-2 before reaching base. It doesn’t get much prettier than that.
Brian McCann is no fun and doubled to left before the count got to 3-2 giving the Yankees a lead they wouldn’t surrender. After a very productive Carlos Beltran RBI grounder to first, Chase Headley worked the count full (yaaaay) and had an epic battle with Collin McHugh before singling up the middle and chasing the pitcher from the game. Headley then stole second(!!!!!!!) – he had zero steals last year – which was a huge play because Starlin Castro bounced a grounder up the middle which would’ve likely been a double play had Headley’s steal not happened. Carlos Correa had moved to his right a few steps and Castro’s bouncer snuck through bringing home the Yankees’ sixth run. Didi Gregorius added a single after that just for fun. Nine batters, nine extremely productive at bats to start the game. It was poetry in motion.
The Yankees were up 6-1 and it seemed like they were going to cruise, only Big Mike struggled in the second inning giving up a grand slam to George Springer which brought Houston to within one. It’s a pretty ‘meh’ feeling when you score six in the first and only have a one run lead. Luckily Starlin Castro, who thankfully is not Stephen Drew, had something to say about that when he launched a three-run BOMB into the Astro Bullpen to restore the Yankees’ large lead and re-ignite the blowout. You’re on the Mark, Teixeira added a three-run Tex Message in the third and the rout was officially on. Carlos Beltran added a solo shot in the sixth for good measure. Even Ronald Torreyes joined the party in his lone at bat ripping a two RBI triple which allowed Castro to drive him in with a single and set Yankee history. Castro recorded seven RBI in his first two games as a New York Yankee, more than anyone ever.
Ivan Nova replaced Michael Pineda in the sixth and threw a very solid four shutout innings to finish off the game and record a save. If you don’t know how that works, any pitcher who enters with a lead – any lead- and pitches three or more innings en route to closing out the ballgame earns himself a save. It was nice to see Nova pitch well in his new role out of the bullpen. It was also important because he gave the rest of the bullpen a full night off which is always a good thing.
In true “You Can’t Predict Baseball Suzyn” fashion, here are some of the Yankee firsts in 2016:
- Home Run: Didi Gregorius
- Stolen Base: Alex Rodriguez then Chase Headley
- Triple: Ronald Torreyes
- Save: Ivan Nova
Ain’t this game great?
If this Yankees lineup can just stay healthy, they will flat out RAKE this season. It’s a ridiculously deep lineup top to bottom without a single hole. When your eight and nine hitters go 7-10, I’d say that’s a good sign of things to come.