A chill in the air, under cloudy skies that threaten rain, people pouring out of the subway station at 161st and River Avenue, more people clad in navy or pinstripes all bundled up milled about Babe Ruth Plaza, vendors open for business selling Yankee tchotchkes, New York’s finest carefully surveying the scene. It was Opening Day, and New Yorkers braved the cold (and some rain) to witness what will hopefully be the first of some great moments in the Bronx this year. That and it was a chance for New York to begin its season-long goodbye to their hero — Derek Jeter.
He didn’t disappoint, but really neither did the Yankees. And like so many year before them, the Yankees, perhaps roused by the highly energetic crowd, pushed forward to a win today against the Orioles.
But first, the sold-out crowd was treated to a pretty great anthem by Broadway star (and a personal favorite actress of mine) Kelli O’Hara, as West Point cadets unfurled a huge Stars-and-Stripes in the outfield. On either side of the bases, the entire Orioles and Yankees’ teams stretched from home plate down to 3rd and 1st bases, having been introduced prior to the anthem. You know, standard Opening Day stuff, with a definite New York flair.
And then, as a special treat to the fans, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, donning team jackets over their jeans, jogged out to the mound once again. Then Jorge Posada (also in a Yankees jacket over his jeans) and Derek Jeter (in the proper uniform of an active player, of course) walked out to the plate. Jeter and Posada got down to catch Rivera and Pettitte (respectively) for one last Core Four reunion, a historic and memorable first pitch. Stopping to pose one last time to recreate that famous Core Four picture, Jeter jogged off for his warm-ups, while the “Core Three” (or rather the “Retired Ones”) savored the moment and sauntered off the field, pausing for a moment to wave to the fans.
Then the Yankees took the field and Hiroki Kuroda took the mound. Even when he struggled some, the team certainly helped lift him out of the hole. The best part of watching the Yankees is when they click and work together, it’s like magic. And today was magic. Actually, Kuroda had a pretty good outing, up until his last inning. 92 pitches over 6.1 inning, he allowed 8 hits, 2 runs, and 4 strikeouts. Those 2 runs came in the 4th and the 7th, both as RBI singles. In other words, the Orioles might be able to grab some hits, but they couldn’t collectively put them together to do much damage.
Which was great for the Yankees, as they seemed ready and willing to show off a bit for the crowd in the Bronx. In the 3rd, Yangervis Solarte walked, moved to 3rd on Gardner’s single, and scored when Jeter grounded into a double play at his second at-bat. (By the way, the Orioles pitchers didn’t really allow Jeter to acknowledge the roaring, cheering crowd that seemed to crave some kind of recognition; Jeter would respond later in the game in the best way possible.) In the 4th, Alfonso Soriano, coming off a hitting drought, broke through with a single; Kelly Johnson walked; and Solarte’s single scored Soriano and put the Yankees up 2-1.
In the 5th inning, Jeter started an offensive break-through leading off with a long double that was just a foot shy of being a home run. He would then score on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single. Ellsbury was caught stealing at 2nd, and though replays showed he might have been safe, Girardi opted not to challenge the play. Beltran and Soriano each singled, and Roberts walked to load the bases. So the Orioles seemed to think the only logical thing to do was walk Johnson and walk in the fourth Yankee run by Beltran. The 5th inning was also the inning that the clouds above started sprinkling little tiny shard-like droplets of rain, that stuck around for a couple of innings.
After Kuroda’s 2nd run scored with 1 out recorded, the Yankees turned to Thornton for an out and Phelps for the other to finish out the 7th. Another Broadway veteran took his turn with “God Bless America” as the fans who stayed despite the continued threat of rain, settled in to watch the Yankees win their Home Opener. Adam Warren’s 8th inning was pretty great, with his fastball reaching 95mph and striking out the Orioles’ best batters. Then it was Shawn Kelley in for the save, throwing an 8 pitch 1-2-3 9th inning.
Of course, this meant questions went out all over as to where David Robertson was after his Opening Introduction with the team. Apparently, after yesterday’s save in Toronto, he suffered a groin strain, something that was confirmed by an MRI today. He will be out for 15 days, something I’m guessing is more than slightly disappointing as he is just starting to get used to his role as closer. Wishing him (and Teixeira) health and a speedy, thorough recovery.
The Yankees, all smiles and celebrating with their on-field fist bump line, are on their way to their annual Homecoming Dinner, where they will honor Pettitte and Rivera with their “Pride of the Yankees” award. (Posada claimed that honor in 2012.) The dive into this week-long home stand above average with a 4-3 record now, in preparation for facing the Red Sox this weekend. But when the Yankees are on a roll and clicking like a team, it doesn’t seem to matter if their opponents are the Red Sox or the Marlins’ Short-A team. I’m hoping today’s game gives both the Yankees and their fans something to look forward to this year, the beginning of some memorable games, the hope and potential for something special this year. And that’s always something to cheer about.
Go Yankees! (Happy Opening Day!)
(Post-script: The Bleacher Creatures were without their fearless leader “Bald Vinny” today due to his “real world job”, but they did him proud with their loud and energetic roll call, game-long cheering, and staved off the wave. Missed? Yes, but still very much present in the people and tee-shirts all around the stadium. If you’re wondering, he will be back in Section 203 this Friday during the Boston series.)