You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Aaron Judge homers in first at-bat, rookie Anthony Volpe steals base in Yankees opening win

USA TODAY SPORTS 3/31/2023 Scooby Axson, USA TODAY
UP NEXT
UP NEXT

NEW YORK —  Yankees manager Aaron Boone admitted that he went through a dark period this offseason thinking of the possibility that Aaron Judge could end up in a San Francisco Giants uniform.

“That was not good,” Boone said before Thursday's game.

“Not a good thought. I am thrilled he is here, where he belongs as the captain of this team, and where he is going to finish an amazing career. He is everything you want in a great leader."

From NFL plays to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day.

The 30-year-old Judge bet on himself and it turned out in his favor.

Judge hit an American League record 62 home runs, while also leading the major leagues in runs scored, RBI, walks, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, and total bases on his way to winning AL MVP honors – before being rewarded with a nine-year, $360 million contract.

Yankees center fielder Aaron Judge hits a solo home run against the Giants in the first inning at Yankee Stadium. © Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports Yankees center fielder Aaron Judge hits a solo home run against the Giants in the first inning at Yankee Stadium.

Coming full circle, New York’s opening day opponents are those same Giants, who finished 81-81, a season after winning the NL West with 107 victories.

On a cool day in the Bronx with temperatures in the 40s, it didn’t take long for Judge to justify this captaincy and the hefty paycheck. He drove the second pitch he saw from Giants starter Logan Webb 422 feet into the center field netting at Monument Park in the first inning. 

Designated hitter Gleyber Torres homered, drove in two runs, and scored twice as New York beat the Giants 5-0 before a sellout crowd of 46,172.

MLB SALARIES: Highest-paid outfielders in 2023

Gerrit Cole made his fourth opening day start for the Yankees and had his four-seam fastball working all day. After walking LaMonte Wade Jr., on four pitches to lead off the game, he settled in and set a franchise record with 11 strikeouts on opening day. He allowed three hits and walked two in six innings of work.

Cole said it was tough to feel his hands because of the cold and that he struggled with his command despite the high strikeout total.

“Just physically, I am in a good spot, but my legs were wobbly late,” Cole said.  “I would have been good to get through five. I didn’t know how that was going to shake out after throwing four high to start the game.

Webb, who was tagged with the loss, was also dealing. His 12 strikeouts also set the club record for most strikeouts in an opening day start for the Giants, as he allowed four hits, and four earned runs in six innings.

New rules

Among the new rules implemented by Major League Baseball was a pitch clock, meant to speed up a game that has become stagnant over the years. There was one pitch clock violation, in the ninth inning on Giants first baseman J.D. Davis, as the game ended in an efficient two hours and 33 minutes.

There were only two stolen bases as the bigger bases had little effort on the running game. The baserunners were few and far between with the teams combining for 11 hits, five walks, and 32 strikeouts.

Sky-high expectations

For the Yankees, the questions remain the same. Loaded with talent and management that is willing to spend, they haven’t been to the World Series since winning it all in 2009.

Boone, entering his sixth season as manager, knows full well the expectations of his ball club, despite a 99-win, AL East-winning 2022 campaign.

The mood is optimistic, despite the end to last season especially when they were eliminated in the postseason for the third time in the past six seasons by the Houston Astros. This time, the Yankees were unceremoniously swept out of the ALCS where they scored nine runs, hit .162 and struck out 50 times.

The pending spree included signing Giants pitcher Carlos Rodon to a six-year, $162 million deal and keeping first baseman Anthony Rizzo in the fold for the next two seasons at a 40 million price tag.

But they also have issues with trying to stay healthy as Harrison Bader, and pitchers Rodon, Frankie Montas, Lou Trivino, and Tommy Kahnle all are on the shelf to start the season.

"We are going to need everyone all season. A victory like this, it’s a good sign of things to come," Judge said after the game.

Newest baby bomber

There was excitement in the air when Anthony Volpe came to bat in the third inning.

Volpe, the top farmhand in the Yankees organization, won the shortstop competition out of spring training. The 21-year-old Watchung, New Jersey native is just the fourth Yankee since 1950 to make his major league debut as an Opening Day Starter.

Boone said that Volpe was terrific and despite his youth, he was ready for the moment.

“I almost thought he was chasing 62 the way the crowd responded,” Judge quipped,  praising Volpe on his at-bats and his defense.

“It was probably the most fun day of my entire life,” Volpe added. “To be out there and welcomed by the fans and to just go out and play.  It gave me a lot of confidence. It was a special moment. I didn’t feel like it was just me as everyone was pretty excited to get there. It’s all pretty surreal.”

Volpe didn’t know how many tickets were disturbed to see his debut as he left that task to his parents and also talked with former Yankee Brett Gardner about wearing No. 11.

Volpe batted ninth against San Francisco and went 0-for-2 with a walk, stealing second in the third inning. The 2019 first-round pick grounded out in the fifth, struck out in the seventh and also made a slick throw in the fourth to get Thairo Estrada at first base. 

Extras: Boo birds in full force

As Yankees fans expect excellence from every player in pinstripes, reserve outfielder Aaron Hicks and third baseman Josh Donaldson were booed during pre-game introductions. Hicks hit .216 in 130 games last season and Donaldson hit .222.

Home plate Laz Diaz also heard from it from the Yankee faithful, but it had nothing to do with balls and strikes. When a blue balloon made its way onto the field in the sixth inning, Diaz promptly picked it up and popped it before a ballboy could make his way to the plate. The crowd quickly voiced their displeasure ... loudly.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Aaron Judge homers in first at-bat, rookie Anthony Volpe steals base in Yankees opening win

AdChoices
AdChoices
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon