The cut-through-your-parka temperatures on a rainy Tuesday afternoon made for conditions that were barbaric for baseball. Didi Gregorius didn’t mind in the least.
The shortstop, viewed inside the Yankees’ clubhouse as one of the sport’s most underrated players, swatted a pair of three-run homers to rightfield in an 11-4 victory over the Rays in the Stadium opener.
“You just have to put on the uniform and go out and play,” Gregorius said, all but shrugging off the brutal conditions. Batting cleanup, he went 4-for-4 with a walk and a career-high eight RBIs.
“It was quite a show he put on today,” said Aaron Boone, who won his home debut as Yankees manager.
It was the most RBIs by a Yankee since Alex Rodriguez had 10 against the Angels on April 26, 2005, at the Stadium. Gregorius also set the team record for RBIs by a shortstop in a game.
Gregorius, who was his typical slick self in the field, is 8-for-18 this season with nine RBIs. Only one of the hits is a single.
“He’s probably the best shortstop in the game, on both sides,” said Aaron Judge, who went 2-for-3 with two walks and an RBI. “It’s impressive. It’s fun to be a part of.”
Gregorius’ second three-run shot, a second-decker in the seventh off Austin Pruitt, gave the Yankees (3-2) an 8-4 lead. His two-run, bloop single to left in a three-run eighth made it 11-4.
Gregorius hit directly behind Giancarlo Stanton, who had a dismal Stadium debut, five strikeouts in five at-bats, and heard loud boos after the last two Ks. “You put up a performance like that,” Stanton said, “you should get some boos.”
Meanwhile, the conditions? Dreadful.
There was rain, followed by a steady mist all day. The first-pitch temperature was 40 degrees with a wind chill of 35, and it got colder as the day ticked into early evening. Most players looked miserable in their assortment of long sleeves, pullovers and ear-flap caps, anything for a modicum of warmth.
“It was tough out there,” Judge said.
The paid attendance was 46,776, with maybe half that many inside the Stadium, a number that dipped as the game moved along.
“Thought the grounds crew did a great job of having the field in good shape,” Brett Gardner said. On Monday morning it was covered in several inches of snow, and it took a pounding rain much of Tuesday morning into the afternoon. “And our fans were awesome, as always. The conditions were not ideal. There were a lot more fans than I expected, they were a lot louder than I expected.”
Lefthander Jordan Montgomery allowed one run, two hits and four walks in five innings and struck out four. Chris Archer started for the Rays (1-4) and allowed four runs and six hits in five innings. He walked three and struck out eight.
The Yankees took a 4-1 lead into the sixth, but Jonathan Holder got into trouble. He left with the bases loaded and one out, one run in. Tommy Kahnle struck out Brad Miller but allowed a two-run double to pinch hitter Denard Span that tied it at 4.
Tyler Austin led off a four-run seventh with a double off Pruitt. Third baseman Matt Duffy’s throwing error on Gardner’s bunt gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead. Gregorius took it from there.
“It’s great, it really is,” Boone said of the home opener. “I honestly didn’t know if we were going to play. It wasn’t great conditions, but I love the guys competed. The goal is to shake hands at the end of the day, and there’s nothing sweeter when you get it done.”
Don’t Stop at First
Didi Gregorius’ first seven hits this season were for extra bases. The breakdown for Gregorius, whose slugging percentage is 1.111:
Home runs 2