On the eve of his first official start in a Yankees uniform, Gerrit Cole wondered aloud if his emotions would cooperate with his muscle memory. His heart raced as he considered the culmination of a lifelong dream, embracing the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of heroes whom he’d taped to the walls of his California childhood bedroom.
Cole envisioned buttoning the road-gray uniform with “NEW YORK” stitched across the chest, and even though little else in this pandemic-altered year has gone according to plan, the ace right-hander could walk to the clubhouse considering his mission accomplished. Cole limited the defending World Series champions to a solo homer over five innings, pitching the Yankees to a rain-shortened 4-1 Opening Night victory over the Nationals on Thursday at Nationals Park. The game was called shortly before 11 p.m. ET after a delay of 1 hour, 58 minutes.
The 29-year-old right-hander struck out five and walked one in a 75-pitch effort before torrential thunderstorms interrupted play with one out in the top of the sixth inning. Adam Eaton’s first-inning homer served as the lone blemish on the ledger for Cole, who agreed to a record-shattering nine-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees in December.
Members of both teams participated in a moment of unity prior to the national anthem, kneeling in recognition of the social justice movement. As Cole prepared to throw his inaugural pitch, Giancarlo Stanton provided Cole with a lead, crushing a two-run homer to left-center field off Nationals ace Max Scherzer in the top of the first inning. Stanton’s blast traveled 459 feet, according to Statcast.
And so it begins ? #NYYforNY pic.twitter.com/ya2UY3kF0w
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 23, 2020
Scherzer was dominant at times, striking out 11 against four walks, but the Yankees tallied four runs and six hits against the three-time Cy Young Award winner. Aaron Judge doubled home New York’s third run in the third inning, with Tyler Wade dashing 270 feet to score from first base. The club’s speediest player, Wade received the Opening Day nod at second base in place of DJ LeMahieu, who was a late arrival to Summer Camp after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Kyle leads sports coverage and hosts the Concrete Jungle podcast. Have a lead or question? Send it to [email protected].