The Martian blasts off in the Space City with HR in first AB

In 'best game that I've been part of,' Domínguez hits 1 of 4 Yankees homers off Verlander

September 2nd, 2023

HOUSTON -- Jasson Domínguez arrived in the big leagues sporting a boyish grin and tailed by impossible hype, already compared to some of the sport’s greatest outfielders before setting foot in the batter’s box. It took all of one swing to show why expectations are so high.

“The Martian” homered on his first swing in a Major League game, blasting an opposite-field two-run homer off likely future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. Domínguez’s first-inning blast was one of four dingers that the Yankees hit off Verlander, powering a 6-2 victory over the Astros on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

“I knew it was going to be a lot of different feelings, finally stepping on the field and my dream coming true right in front of me,” Domínguez said through an interpreter. “I was able to connect there for that hit, and it ended up being a homer. It’s probably the best game that I’ve been part of in my career.”

One of the most celebrated international prospects in recent memory, compared to Bo Jackson, Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout before signing his first pro contract, the 20-year-old Domínguez will now have an extended opportunity to forge his path as the Yanks’ starting center fielder.

“You can’t help but notice his skills anytime you get to see him in person,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Look, it’s one game, but you get a peek tonight why a lot of us are excited about him.”

Domínguez looked at a curveball for a called strike from Verlander, then was challenged with a 94.3 mph fastball across the heart of home plate. Domínguez stroked the ball into the Crawford Boxes in left field, a blast that came off his bat at 100.2 mph with a 26-degree launch angle, traveling a Statcast-projected 360 feet.

“I wasn’t expecting a curveball first pitch, for sure,” Domínguez said. “He caught me off guard there, first pitch. But we go to meetings and we prepare. I stuck to my plan there.”

Said Verlander: “First time facing him, he was cat and mouse, trying to figure him out and he’s trying to figure me out. I think the first thing you’ve got to figure out is, 'Where does he like to hit the ball?' Apparently, right where I threw it.”

Domínguez said he had “a lot of family” in the stands for Friday’s game, including his parents, aunts and uncles. They cheered wildly as Domínguez rounded the bases, as did Domínguez’s teammates in the dugout.

“We were jumping up and down like little kids,” Aaron Judge said. “It’s just impressive. I’m excited for him. We just felt a different energy on the bus coming to the field today. Just a little bit of excitement, a little bit of jitters. It was, all in all, a good day.”

At 20 years and 206 days, Domínguez is the youngest Yankee to homer in his first big league at-bat, and the first to do so since Tyler Austin and Judge went back-to-back on Aug. 13, 2016. He is also the fifth-youngest player in AL/NL history to homer in his first at-bat.

“He’s going to remember that for the rest of his life,” Giancarlo Stanton said. “He just seems comfortable. Nothing seems to faze him. He knows he deserves to be here, and should be here.”

Yankees security retrieved the ball for Domínguez, who said that he would give the keepsake to his mom. It was the second homer surrendered in the inning by Verlander, who also allowed a leadoff drive to DJ LeMahieu.

Stanton rattled the glass windows with a two-run homer in the third inning, and Judge struck the train above the left-field wall for his 250th career home run in the fifth. Judge is the fastest player ever to reach that plateau in terms of games played (810).

“It’s great; I really don’t think about it too much,” Judge said. “Doing it in a win means more.”

Yankees catcher Austin Wells also notched his first Major League hit, a second-inning single off Verlander.

“I had to make sure I looked up,” Wells said. “I saw my family and saw them going crazy. That was pretty cool.”

Carlos Rodón navigated five innings of two-run ball, earning his second win as a Yankee. Boone said that the lefty, guided by Wells’ game-calling, showed the best stuff he has had through nine starts with the club, a statement that Rodón agreed with.

But this night belonged to the kids, with the Yankees starting four players age 23 and under (Domínguez, Everson Pereira, Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe) for the first time since September 1969.

“You’re always looking for the right mixture of youth and veterans, and when you get that blend right, it can be special,” Boone said.