On the eve of his third Opening Day, Aaron Judge spelled out the Yankees' hopes for Thursday afternoon.
“Every game’s important, especially Opening Day,” he said Wednesday. “You want to start off with a bang.”
Luke Voit helped the Yankees do exactly that, as his three-run homer off the glass overhanging Monument Park in the first inning sparked a 7-2 victory over the expected-to-be-lousy Orioles on a crisp, sunny Thursday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd of 46,928 at the Stadium.
“It was a lot of fun today,” said Voit, who quickly became a fan favorite late last season after being acquired from the Cardinals and hit 14 home runs in 114 at-bats after taking over the everyday first-base duties Aug. 24. “To get a home run Opening Day is pretty special.”
The Yankees won on Opening Day for a second straight season after losing six straight from 2012-17. They got a solid start from Masahiro Tanaka, finally a winner in his fourth season-opening start.
“All in all, a pretty good first day,” Aaron Boone said. “Obviously a couple of things to clean up, but all in all, I thought it was a lot of guys [having] a good day.”
Judge went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles in his first two at-bats, two walks and three runs. All nine starters reached base at least once as the Yankees totaled nine hits and eight walks, four against starter Andrew Cashner.
Judge, Giancarlo Stanton (1-for-3, two walks) and Voit, the Yankees' 2-4 hitters, reached base in 11 of 14 plate appearances, going 4-for-7 with a homer, four RBIs, six walks and five runs.
“We had a game plan going in against Andrew,'' Judge said. “He’s had success off us [before]. For us, it was about making sure we just hammer the pitches in the zone, try to lay off the two-seamers in, sliders off the plate that he likes to do, because he’s got some good stuff. But when we’re able to control the zone and get him in the middle of the plate, we can do some damage. We saw that from Luke Voit. Man, he worked a good at-bat, and then a got a little [3-and-1] slider over the middle and was able to do some damage.”
The 6-3, 255-pound Voit, who served as the DH, drove in four runs. Voit, whose home run traveled 428 feet, was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the third to make it 4-0.
Voit and Greg Bird engaged in a neck-and-neck battle for the starting first base job during spring training, and both players made the Opening Day roster because Aaron Hicks started the season on the injured list.
Bird had a rough start to his day, striking out his first three times and hearing boos after each one. Then the lefthanded-hitting Bird homered on an 0-and-2 pitch from lefthander Paul Fry in the eighthto make it 7-2.
“One through nine, guys having quality at-bats,” Judge said.
Tanaka, 0-2 with a 9.49 ERA in his previous three Opening Day starts from 2015-17, allowed two runs (one earned) and six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out five and did not walk a batter.
Brooklyn native Adam Ottavino, who signed a three-year, $27-million contract in the offseason, entered with a runner on second in the sixth and struck out Rio Ruiz to end the inning. The righthander then struck out two of three in the seventh. Zack Britton allowed a hit and walked a batter but pitched a scoreless eighth and Aroldis Chapman allowed a hit and struck out one in the ninth.
The Yankees went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, hit into two double plays and stranded eight. That was the only down note – and not a particularly costly one — on an overwhelmingly positive afternoon for a team with grand expectations for 2019.
“It’s an exciting day for our players, everyone that works within the game and the sport,” Boone said of Opening Day. “So to go out and be able to shake hands at the end of it heading into an off day [Friday], that’s one of those that makes you smile in kind of celebrating our game today.”