TORONTO -- All offseason the Blue Jays heard about how difficult life would be in the American League East with Giancarlo Stanton in New York. On Opening Day, they experienced it firsthand.
Stanton hit a pair of home runs -- including one on the second pitch he saw as a Yankee -- and an RBI double as New York snapped a six-year losing streak on Opening Day and sent the Blue Jays to a 6-1 loss on Thursday. The Yankees' designated hitter went 3-for-5 with four RBIs and three runs scored in his American League debut.
Toronto's pitching staff learned how challenging it will be to navigate its way through the Yankees' lineup this season. It's not just Stanton, it's the fact that opposing teams can't pitch around him very often because he's surrounded by the likes of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. There's no easy recipe for success here.
"I wish I had the answer," Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said. "They're going to be tough. They're going to hit their share of home runs, and you just have to hope there's nobody on base when they do. My belief is when you're facing the best hitters, you have to stay aggressive. They get into good hitter's counts and they're even more aggressive. You can't let the fear change your attitude on how you approach the game."
Lefty J.A. Happ certainly did not appear intimidated, but one pitch was all it took for the first Opening Day start of his career to turn a little sour. Stanton's two-run homer in the first came a couple of minutes after Curtis Granderson dropped a routine liner in left field, and just like that the Blue Jays faced an early deficit they could not recover from. Happ was charged with three runs (two earned) on four hits and a walk while striking out five.
Further complicating things for Toronto was that its lineup was unable to generate much of anything against Yankees starter Luis Severino. Granderson's single in the fourth inning was the only hit the Blue Jays managed off Severino, who struck out seven and walked three over 5 2/3 scoreless innings.
Center fielder Kevin Pillar spoiled New York's bid for a shutout with a home run in the eighth, but that's all the Blue Jays could muster. The two hits set a franchise record for the fewest in an Opening Day game. The previous record of three was set back on April 9, 1990, at Texas. Toronto finished the day 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and left four men on base.
"It's very well-documented that they have a good ballclub over there," Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "Severino was on his game today. Stanton had a very nice game as well. They're a very good team and we're going to have to play our best to beat them."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Stanton gets to Happ: Yankees fans had been waiting all offseason to see how Stanton would look in a New York uniform, and it didn't take him very long at all to make a positive impression. The slugger took the first pitch he saw from Happ for a called strike but then unloaded on the second offering by hitting an opposite-field two-run homer to right. Stanton's first of the year left his bat at 117.3 mph, which is the hardest opposite-field home run recorded by any player in any Major League ballpark since Statcast™ was created in 2015.
"I tried to throw a two-seamer and I kind of pulled it," Happ said. "That's a pitch I'd like to have back. But I think the reality is sometimes one mistake is one mistake too many to win a ballgame."
A rocky debut: Right-hander John Axford received some good news earlier in the day when he was officially named to Toronto's bullpen. That's where the positive developments stopped for at least one day as Axford's debut in a Blue Jays uniform was rocky at best. Axford was brought into the game to face Stanton in the fifth inning and promptly gave up an RBI double. The very next batter, Sanchez, then came through with a double of his own as the Yankees jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Add in the error by Granderson and a rocky -- but scoreless -- eighth inning for Seunghwan Oh and it wasn't a great night for first-time Blue Jays.
"We like them all," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Pitching-wise, they're good. There are going to be days when they give up runs. It's not an easy place to pitch in this ballpark or this division. That's part of it, but it's good to get everybody out there as quickly as possible."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Blue Jays have lost each of their last seven home openers, which is the longest skid in franchise history.
Stanton became the 19th Yankee since 1961 to homer in his first at-bat for the team, and he was the first to do so since Christopher Austin and Judge both did it by hitting back-to-back home runs on Aug. 13, 2016. Stanton is the first Yankee to homer in his first at-bat for the team on Opening Day since Granderson on April 4, 2010.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Donaldson's wonky right shoulder nearly cost the Blue Jays a run in the top of the sixth. With a runner on second and two outs, Donaldson fielded a grounder off the bat of Austin and made a weak throw to first, which almost pulled Justin Smoak off the bag. Austin was called out, but Yankees manager Aaron Boone asked for a replay review. The umpires determined the call would stand. The ruling was a key one because Neil Walker would have scored all the way from second on the play, but instead the inning came to an end.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Aaron Sanchez will make his first big league start in more than eight months when the Blue Jays face the Yankees on Friday night at Rogers Centre. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET, and New York will counter with right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. The game is an MLB Network Showcase, with Bob Costas, Jim Kaat and Tom Verducci on the call.
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