Gerrit Cole fans 11, Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres homer as Yanks blank Giants in opener
For openers . . . this one could not have gone much better for the Yankees.
Behind an Opening Day franchise-record 11 strikeouts by Gerrit Cole and home runs by Gleyber Torres and — who else? — Aaron Judge, the Yankees coasted to a 5-0 victory over the Giants in front of a Stadium sellout crowd of 46,172 on Thursday.
“Any time you come away with the win Opening Day, and kind of get things rolling, makes for a pretty special Opening Day,” Judge said.
The crowd was enthused from the get-go on the chilly but sun-splashed afternoon. It started with the pregame introductions in which reigning American League MVP Judge — who was tempted by his hometown Giants before returning to the Yankees on a nine-year, $360 million free-agent deal in the offseason — received the expected roar.
But the ovation for the club’s newest captain was matched by the cheers bestowed upon 21-year-old Anthony Volpe, who made his big-league debut. He walked in his first plate appearance in the third and stole second, part of an 0-for-2 afternoon.
“It was probably the most fun day of my entire life,” a beaming Volpe said. “I probably had goosebumps the whole day.”
Making his fourth straight Opening Day start for the team he grew up rooting for, Cole allowed three hits and two walks in six innings in which there was little hard contact.
“Opening Days are always really special for players. Whether you’re throwing the first pitch of the season or just the first pitch of your Opening Day game, it’s a really cool experience,” he said.
With an unrelenting fastball and an especially sharp changeup and slider, Cole fanned eight of the first nine batters he faced and had 10 strikeouts through four innings.
“I just thought his fastball and his ability to move it around — in, out, up, down — was really strong,” Aaron Boone said. “Just a really good performance.”
Said Cole: “I thought Trevi [catcher Jose Trevino] was using what we had really well. Obviously, it was nice to get a lead right out of the chute with Aaron, to be able to attack the middle of the strike zone. And we continued to tack on from there.”
Judge, coming off a 2022 season in which he hit an AL-record 62 homers, needed only two pitches to hit his first of 2023. On an 0-and-1 pitch from righthander Logan Webb, he blasted a 422-foot shot onto the netting above Monument Park in the first inning.
“It was a tone-setter for us,” Cole said.
Torres, whose two-run blast to rightfield in the fourth made it 3-0, said of Judge’s homer, “I expected that, so I’m not surprised.”
Webb, who allowed four runs and four hits in six innings but struck out 12, is not an easy pitcher to go deep against.
What was Judge’s approach?
“I was just trying to make solid contact,” said Judge, who followed DJ LeMahieu’s two-out RBI single with a broken-bat bloop RBI single to make it 5-0 in the seventh. “Especially a guy like Logan, he has that nasty sinker-changeup mix, a lot of balls on the ground, a lot of weak contact. So just really trying to elevate a pitch and try to get it in the air as best I could. I didn’t expect that to happen.”
Cole departed after six innings and 95 pitches. The bullpen took it from there, with Ron Marinaccio finishing it off with three strikeouts over the eighth and ninth innings (each team struck out 16 times).
“That’s pretty good,” Boone said of this Opening Day following an about perfect script. “When your ace goes out there and punches 11 in six innings . . . and the bullpen . . . kind of everyone had a hand in it. We were able to add on a couple of insurance with some good, quality at-bats there late. [We] caught the ball on defense. I thought Trevi was great behind the plate as usual. So just crisp, which you like to see on Opening Day. I thought we looked like a settled team out there, and that was good to see.”
Most strikeouts for a Yankees starting pitcher on Opening Day:
11 Gerrit Cole 2023
9 Tim Leary 1991
8 Roger Clemens 1999
Gerrit Cole 2021
David Cone 1997
Whitey Ford 1955