Yankees defeat Nationals in abbreviated season opener
After delaying the 2020 season by nearly four months, Major League Baseball returned on Thursday night with a marquee matchup. The defending World Champion Washington Nationals took on the New York Yankees, as star hurlers Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole faced off in the season opener. The Yankees’ bats propelled the club to a 4-1 victory on Opening Night, after the game was called due to inclement weather in the top of the sixth inning.
Coming off of a heartbreaking end to the 2019 season, the Yankees wasted no time making a mark in their first contest of 2020. In the top of the first inning, Giancarlo Stanton silenced his critics with a 459-foot blast to left-center field. The home run came with a man aboard, giving the Yankees an early 2-0 lead. This was the second time in Stanton’s Yankee career in which he has homered on Opening Day.
After Scherzer eventually retired the side, Gerrit Cole made his highly anticipated Yankee debut. The right-hander was greeted rudely by the second batter he faced, as veteran outfielder Adam Eaton deposited a home run into the empty right field seats. This cut the Nationals deficit to 2-1.
The blast would prove to be one of the few mistakes that Cole made on this night, as he didn’t allow a hit the rest of the game. Cole acknowledged that nerves played a factor early on in his debut but said that catcher Gary Sanchez helped him settle into a rhythm.
“I was definitely battling some adrenaline early, trying to hone the timing and sync… but I thought Gary guided the ship as well as he could have,” said Cole in his postgame press conference.
The Cole-Sanchez battery appeared to be on the same page after this at-bat, helping the right-hander hold the Nationals to just three base runners. Cole’s dominance was evident from the second inning through the fifth, as he retired 10 batters in a row. He also went on to strike out five Nationals in his five innings of work.
The Yankees extended their lead to 3-1 in the top of the third, when Aaron Judge laced an RBI double to left field. The hit brought in utility man Tyler Wade, who showcased his speed by scoring all the way from first base. The double was Judge’s second hit of the night, as he continues to prove that he is fully healed from his rib injury.
In the top of the fifth inning the Yankees further extended their lead to 4-1, as Stanton lined an RBI single to right field. The hit provided the designated hitter with his third RBI of the evening, proving to Yankees fans that he is ready to make an impact in 2020.
In the top of the sixth inning, rain began to fall in Washington. At the time of the game’s suspension, Scherzer had recorded one out in the inning and Tyler Wade was at the plate.
Both sides intended to resume play as they waited for nearly two hours before making the decision to call the game. Scherzer’s night ended after 5.1 innings of work, while giving up six hits and allowing four runs.
Despite his struggles, Scherzer was still able to impress in his first start of the season, as he recorded 11 strikeouts in his first outing of the year. The Nationals’ ace felt that he was able to command his off-speed pitches well, but ultimately struggled due to a lack of command of his fastball.
“I thought my off-speed stuff was good, it was sharp. I thought I had put-away pitches. Unfortunately, my fastball location was kind of a crossfire,” said Scherzer in his postgame press conference.
He also expressed that there were positives to take away from this start. After all that has happened around the world in 2020, Scherzer is simply happy to be back on the mound.
“As much as I can beat myself up over tonight, there were also some good things that came out of today,” said Scherzer. "I’m going to keep playing baseball and have a smile on my face.”
The Nationals and Yankees will continue their series on Saturday night at Nationals Park, as Stephen Strasburg will take on James Paxton.