Saturday, July 25, 2020

It's a Cole, Cole World...

Photo Credit: Alex Brandon, AP

First Yankees Win for Gerrit Alan Cole…

Baseball back and I couldn’t be happier, even if it is not quite baseball as we’ve known it over the years. It remains very strange to see empty stadium seats behind the players or in the cases of places like Dodger Stadium, cardboard cut-out’s sitting the seats. The Dodgers even pumped in fan ovation for home runs in last night’s game against the Giants. It kind of reminded me of that self-noise I used to create as a kid when I hit an imaginary home run in my backyard. But I am not here to talk about the Dodgers, so let’s get to the team that really matters.  

The Yankees and Gerrit Cole did not disappoint for MLB’s opening game even if Mother Nature had a say in the final outcome which resulted in the 4-1win for the Yankees over the defending World Series Champions at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The game was, as most expected even with the Yankees facing the great Max Scherzer, total domination by young Caden Cole’s dad. The talented Trea Turner managed a homer off Cole in the bottom of the first inning, but it would be the only hit off the Yankees’ shiny new toy in a game called early because of rain after a delay halted Cole’s debut with one out in the top of the sixth. In picking up his first Yankees victory, Cole struck out five with 75 total pitches in the shortened, complete game effort. As a fan, it’s so enjoyable to have a pitcher on the mound who gives you complete confidence regardless of the opponent. I know, Luis Severino can be that guy, but we won’t see him until 2021. James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka can be great at times but as much as I like both of them, they do not instill the sense of confidence that Cole and Sevy give you. Putting Sevy with Cole is probably a bit of an overstatement since Sevy is not on Cole’s level but I feel he can be and hopefully will be. Meanwhile, keep pumping as much Cole into my veins as you want to. I am glad the man is a Yankee. 
So, for now, Gerrit Cole is undefeated as a Yankee, with a lifetime ERA of 1.80 in Pinstripes. Small sample size…sure, but totally worth the $324 million he was generously provided by the Steinbrenner Family. I am looking forward to every opportunity #45 gets to take the mound. The higher the stakes, the better.  

Despite the loss, Max Scherzer racked up eleven punch-outs. As much as I wanted the Yankees to sign Scherzer in free agency a few years ago, I think of how awesome it would have been to have both Scherzer and Cole in the same rotation. If the Yankees had signed Scherzer, perhaps they would not have been players for Cole last off-season, but one can dream. I have great respect for Scherzer, even if he is not wearing the right uniform. I will always wonder what could have been with Cole and Scherzer as the rotation headliners.  

If I had to pick the first Yankee to homer…correction, the first Major League Baseball player to homer…to start the unusual quick sprint 2020 season, I couldn’t ask for a better guy than Giancarlo Stanton. As maligned as he has been in the eyes of the Yankees Universe, I am glad to see him letting his bat do the talking. His blast, which traveled 459 feet to center, gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning off Scherzer and the Yankees never looked back. Stanton picked up another RBI with a fifth inning single. The slimmed down version of the Yankees slugger looks like he is prepared for a monster season and I am glad to be along for the ride.

For the second consecutive Opening Day game, D.J. LeMahieu was on the bench. Granted, he’s still working his way back from his recent bout with the coronavirus but I am glad he was on the active roster and did not start the year on the injured list. It may be a few days before we see him in a game, but I look forward to the encore performance for Le Machine. I am so hopeful his 2020 season yields a new extension for the man who has looked very good in Pinstripes.  Meanwhile, his replacement at second base, Tyler Wade, held his own. His walk to open the third inning led to the Yankees’ third run when Aaron Judge followed, after an Aaron Hicks strikeout, with a double to left.  

Photo Credit: Getty Images

He also picked up a hit on a bunt grounder that Nationals second baseman All-Starlin Castro mishandled, no doubt feeling the pressure of Wade’s speed. Wade has a chance to be the team’s unsung hero this year with his versatility and the significance of each and every game. He may not get a lot of credit but he can do the little things to make the Yankees better. We’ll see LeMahieu soon enough even if it is not, well, soon enough.  

After a day off on Friday, the Yankees and Nationals hook up again today or rather this evening at 7:15 pm ET. James Paxton, who would have started the scheduled late March opening series  in Baltimore, Maryland on the injured list after off-season back surgery, will take the hill against mega-millionaire Stephen Strasburg. It may not be quite as thrilling as Cole-Scherzer but it’s not far behind. Only 59 games left in the season! It is the stretch run already…LOL!  

The Yankees stashed veteran left-handed relief to work out with the other guys currently training in Moosic, PA, home of the idled Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders, when they signed lefty reliever Fernando Abad. The 34-year-old Abad was most recently with the Washington Nationals but he missed summer training after testing positive for the coronavirus and did not make the cut. He’s now healthy and looks to get ready for an eventual call back to the big leagues. Abad was a member of the Boston Red Sox bullpen during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Nothing to get excited about but if he’s needed, he’ll be there and once you get a chance to play, anybody can be a hero.  

There’s a third team in New York. Alright, it’s Western New York and a very long car ride away from Yankee Stadium, but the Toronto Blue Jays will be sharing the state with the Yankees and Mets this season as they’ve decided to play their home games in Buffalo, site of their Triple A club. The Blue Jays had wanted to play at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, but the health department for the State of Pennsylvania had other thoughts. Facing a similar rejection in Maryland to play at Orioles Park at Camden Yards, the Jays settled on the Queen City, in a stadium next to a building that housed a one-time employer for me. 

It’s a good day…a great day…for a Yankees win! The weather should be cooperative this go-around with only a 10% chance of rain forecasted for this evening (with an expected high temp of 82) in the Nation’s Capitol. Let’s play nine and hopefully give the Big Maple his first win of the season.

As always, Go Yankees!