On a perfect 76° afternoon in the Bronx; the highest opening day temperature in New York in 58 years, Michael Pineda led the New York Yankees to a Yankee Stadium Opening Day victory against the Tampa Bay Rays. Pineda was excellent today as he carried a perfect game through 6.2 innings this afternoon. The starter for Tampa, Alex Cobb, also pitched really well today, but was no match for the dominant Pineda on a near-perfect day in the Big Apple.
While both starters cruised through the first two frames with a combined seven strikeouts between them, the Yankees opened up the scoring in the bottom of the third. With one out, Brett Gardner struck out on a wild pitch by Cobb but reached first base as the catcher failed to retrieve the ball in time to record the put out at first. And that error immediately came back to haunt Cobb as he then served up a line drive double to right-center field by Jacoby Ellsbury that scored Gardner from first to give the Yankees a one run lead.
The Bombers went on to use the longball to widen their lead in the middle innings. In the bottom of the fourth, Aaron Judge blasted a solo shot into the seats in left to make it a 2-0 ballgame. The long homer was Judge's second in as many days, and this one may have been even more so satisfying because he did it in front of his parents in his first Yankees home opener. And then in the bottom of the seventh, Chase Headley led off the frame with a line drive solo blast that made it into the first row of seats in right field to extend their lead out to three.
If you have followed my blogs, you probably know that I have been extremely critical of Michael Pineda over the last two seasons. And I can say today that I have been waiting for this type of pitching performance out of Pineda since they made the trade with Seattle to acquire him. He was absolutely phenomenal all game long, beginning nearly every at bat with a strike. His career-long bugaboo has been the inability to excel in two-strike counts and finish the job with strike three. Today, Pineda fanned 11 Rays in his 7.2 brilliant innings of work. After giving up a solo homerun to Logan Morrison in the top of the eighth, Pineda was taken out for Tyler Clippard and headed towards the dugout to a much-deserved thunderous standing ovation. It was just awesome.
As if the Pineda performance wasn't enough, several Rays errors and the Yankees bats blew the game wide open in the eighth to send Yankee fans home happy. Brett Gardner started the frame by reaching on a fielding error by second baseman Brad Miller, stealing second during Jacoby Ellsbury's at bat and then swiping third during Matt Holliday's at bat. Holliday doubled to drive Gardner in while simultaneously knocking Cobb out of the game. Austin Pruitt came on in relief and immediately coughed up a triple to the not-so-fleet-of-foot Chris Carter, scoring Holliday to make it 5-1. Starlin Castro got in on the scoring action by smacking his first homer of the season to centerfield, opening it up to a six run lead. Chase Headley reached with a single, advancing to second on a "hometown scoring" infield single by Judge that should have been called an error on first baseman Logan Morrison. Austin Romine then hit a comebacker to Austin Pruitt, who in turn bobbled the ball several times which allowed all three runners to be safe. The final run of the game was scored when Ronald Torreyes hit a grounder to third, scoring Headley to make it a 8-1 final score.
This was the most fun I've had watching Yankee baseball in a very long time. Let's hope they can keep this momentum going as they head into game two with Tampa Bay on Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 PM/EST.