NEW YORK -- Didi Gregorius enjoyed a home opener for the ages, homering twice and driving in a career-high eight runs in a historic performance that powered the Yankees to an 11-4 victory over the Rays on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.
On a raw and rainy afternoon in The Bronx, Gregorius gave New York a lead in the third inning, slugging a drive into the field-level seats in right field off starter Chris Archer. The Bombers shortstop reached the second deck in the seventh, cracking a long blast off reliever Austin Pruitt to turn a one-run lead into an 8-4 advantage.
"The win is the most important thing," Gregorius said. "That's one thing that you want to do, for sure. It's not about me, it's about the team. As long as we got that win in there, that's all that matters. It's the home opener, it's raining, snowing yesterday. But we've got to get ready to play. Get mentally tough and just go out there."
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Accepting a pair of curtain calls from the sellout crowd of 46,776, Gregorius added a two-run single in the eighth, marking the most RBIs in a single game by a shortstop in Yankees history. The eight RBIs were the most by a Yankees player since Alex Rodriguez drove in 10 runs on April 26, 2005, against the Angels.
"I think everyone around the game understands what a good player he is and what a big-time money player he's become," manager Aaron Boone said. "I think his peers have a lot of respect for him around the league and the guys in our room really respect just who he is. There were a lot of fun comments on the bench, just about their teammate. It was quite a show that he put on today."
The banner day helped the Yankees rebound after a less-than-stellar performance from their bullpen, which coughed up a three-run advantage in the sixth after Jordan Montgomery held Tampa Bay to a run over five innings. Giancarlo Stanton also weathered the first five-strikeout game of his career, hearing some Bronx jeers.
"You put up a performance like that, you should get booed," Stanton said. "It's not ideal, but we've got plenty more."
Archer worked five innings, permitting four runs and six hits while striking out eight. Tyler Wade stroked a run-scoring single and narrowly missed his first Major League home run when Carlos Gomez made a leaping catch at the right field wall in the sixth. The Yankees improved to 17-4 in home openers since 1998.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Stop right there: A half-inning before Gregorius' first blast of the afternoon, Brett Gardner saved a run from center field with a strong, one-hop strike that cut down former teammate Rob Refsnyder on the back end of a double play. With one out in the third, Gardner settled underneath Kevin Kiermaier's medium-depth fly ball and was challenged by Refsnyder. Gardner got the ball home in time for catcher Gary Sanchez to apply a tag.
"I expected him to go; that's the right move," Gardner said. "I had to make a perfect throw to get him. I thought we did a pretty good job today on both sides of the ball. It's not easy to play in those conditions, but I thought that we did a pretty good job. I'm just happy that we got off to a good start."
Burned again: The Yanks' bullpen backfired for a third successive game, with Montgomery lifted after 80 pitches in favor of Jonathan Holder. Tampa Bay tied the game as Holder permitted hits to C.J. Cron, Wilson Ramos, Adeiny Hechavarria and Jesus Sucre, leaving a bases-loaded jam for Tommy Kahnle. After a strikeout, Kahnle got ahead of the pinch-hitter Span, 0-2, before the veteran pounced on a hanging changeup for a two-run double to right.
"We thought he was coming towards the end [of the line]," Boone said of Montgomery. "We had his pitch count [up]. He had a few more pitches we could have played with, but we felt like he struggled through that last batter. I think his legs tightened up on him a little bit out there as well in that fifth and we felt like we would be pushing it to start the next inning with him."
Small ball: Gregorius' pair of jacks merited highlights, but the Yankees took the lead in the seventh as Christopher Austin doubled off Pruitt and Gardner followed with a beautiful sacrifice. Matt Duffy charged and fired wildly toward first base, allowing Austin to score the tie-breaking run. After a single and a strikeout, Gregorius visited the second deck in right field and the Yankees rolled to hand Boone his first victory in pinstripes.
"It's great. It really is," Boone said. "I honestly didn't know if we were going to play tonight. It felt very up in the air, 50-50 to me. Once we got the go-ahead to play, it wasn't great conditions, but I loved the way our guys competed."
"He picked me up, too. That's what a cleanup hitter does. You clean up the garbage in front of you."
-- Stanton, on Gregorius' great day
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Gregorius is the third Yankee with a two-homer game in 2018, joining Stanton (March 29) and Austin (March 31). It is the earliest into a season that the Yankees have tallied a trio of multi-homer games. The previous best was 1990, when Mike Blowers, Dave Winfield and Jesse Barfield did it within the team's first 13 games.
Right-hander Luis Severino makes his second start of the season on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Severino fired 5 2/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball on Opening Day against the Blue Jays in Toronto. He's 5-1 with a 2.83 ERA in six career starts vs. the Rays.
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