NEW YORK -- It was about 11 months ago that Shohei Ohtani visited the mound at Yankee Stadium, a showdown against a Yankees lineup that was advertised to be a premier power-on-power event. That matchup lasted only two-thirds of an inning, with the Angels' two-way phenom chased by seven early runs.
Ohtani refined his pitches for the remainder of the 2021 season, and he was curious to test that renewed form under the Bronx spotlight. The Yankees had answers for Ohtani once more, slugging three early homers en route to a 6-1 victory in the first game of Thursday's split-admission doubleheader.
"I spent a lot of my career in the leadoff spot and took a lot of pride in starting games off with long at-bats," said Matt Carpenter, who capped an 11-pitch battle by taking Ohtani into the second deck in right field. "It just really sets the tone. The opposing pitcher doesn't want that. You're just letting him know that we're coming here to fight. As a group, it's not going to be an easy day for you."
Ohtani -- a one-time Yankees target who informed the club that he preferred to play elsewhere -- has been widely celebrated as the modern-day answer to Babe Ruth, but over 3 2/3 career innings at Yankee Stadium, the Bombers have hammered Ohtani for 11 earned runs (27.00 ERA).
"I think our guys just capitalized on some mistakes against him and threw up some really tough at-bats, both right and left-handed," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "Maybe he didn't have his best stuff today, but I felt like this was a little bit different than last year."
Carpenter's leadoff blast helped to make history, with Carpenter joining Alfonso Soriano (1999-2000) and Kyle Higashioka (2018) as the only Yankees to slug home runs for each of their first three hits with the franchise.
“I'd like to mix in a single or something; that'd be nice,” Carpenter said. “I haven't really thought much about it. I'm just competing in the box and trying to have good at-bats. I've gotten some good swings off here to start and just want to keep riding it out.”
Torres' first-inning homer was the surging infielder's 10th of the season and his fifth in eight games. Judge clubbed his Major League-leading 19th home run in the third inning, and DJ LeMahieu later added a solo blast off reliever Jhonathan Diaz.
The early support was plenty for Yankees starter Nestor Cortes, who scattered five hits over seven scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 1.50.
"I think we're all here trying to do a job," Cortes said. "Obviously, everybody knows he's very talented and he's got two things to do when he pitches and hits. I go out there and pride myself on giving the best I can, whether I'm pitching against Ohtani or any other person."
Cortes walked two and struck out seven. He has now permitted three runs or fewer in 19 consecutive starts since Aug. 15, 2021, the second-longest streak by a Yankees starter behind Russ Ford's 20, a string which the scuffball artist compiled over the 1910-11 seasons
"I can't sit here and tell you I don't look at the numbers. I always look at numbers," Cortes said. "It's been pretty special. I feel like I go out there and control what I can control, which is whether I go three innings or I go seven innings, I try and compete. With that I've had a lot of success, and hopefully I can continue to do so."