It got dicey in the ninth inning when Aroldis Chapman gave up two doubles and a run. But with the potential tying run at the plate, Chapman struck out Randal Grichuk to secure a 4-2 win and keep the Yankees undefeated in 2018.
“It’s really nice to see everyone kind of pitch in for the win,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said.
Tanaka began his fifth season as a Yankee on a positive note after a disappointing regular season last year. He held the Blue Jays to one run, allowing a home run by Grichuk and two other hits. He did not walk any batters, and he struck out eight in six innings.
Boone noted that Tanaka did not have his best split-fingered fastball, but that he used a savvy combination of pitches, mixing in his slider and even his curve at times, to work efficiently through the Blue Jays batting order.
“I thought it was really a quality effort by a mature, really good pitcher,” Boone said.
The only drawback to the proceedings was that on the second day of the season, the Yankees were already dealing with an injury that further depleted their outfielder ranks.
The latest to fall was the starting center fielder Aaron Hicks, who sustained another in a string of muscle strains in his rib-cage area during Thursday’s game.
The Yankees placed Hicks on the 10-day disabled list with a strained intercostal muscle on his right side and called up Billy McKinney from Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Yankees said Hicks had a Grade 1 strain, but Hicks said it was not as painful as last year’s similar injuries, which twice landed him on the disabled list.
Hicks joined Clint Frazier (concussion) and Jacoby Ellsbury (right oblique strain) on the shelf. Ellsbury, who is rehabilitating at the Yankees’ minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., is eligible to return to the team on Thursday.
In the meantime, the shortage of outfielders could force the Yankees to use Judge in center. Judge has not played there in the major leagues, but he was in center for 11 minor league games.
“I’ll be ready,” Judge said.
Brett Gardner played center field on Friday, but Boone said he wanted to be careful about how often he used Gardner, who is 34.
“Especially early,” Boone said before the game, “I just don’t want to run him into the ground. I don’t want to wear him out.”
With four games on Toronto’s artificial turf to open the season, followed by a day game at Yankee Stadium on Monday, Boone sees getting rest for Gardner as a priority.
Boone also said the reconfiguring could mean Stanton will see time in left or right field, too. In the first two games, he was the designated hitter.
McKinney, in his debut in left field on Friday, recorded his first major league hit, a ground-ball single off Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez in the second inning.
That hit pushed Gary Sanchez, who had reached on a fielder’s choice, to third base, and he scored on a line-drive double by Drury for a 1-0 lead. The ball Drury hit struck the top of the right-field wall, shy of a three-run home run by a matter of inches. Although Gary Sanchez scored, McKinney held at third and Aaron Sanchez was able to strike out Wade to end the inning.
Aaron Sanchez allowed four runs and eight hits in five and two-thirds innings — which against the Yankees’ potent lineup is not a terrible performance. He never yielded to Judge, Stanton and Gary Sanchez, who went a combined 0 for 12 against Aaron Sanchez and the Toronto bullpen. But sometimes when pitchers strain so hard to get the most dangerous hitters out, it can lead to a lack of focus against the others.
“Ultimately, that’s what truly makes a good lineup over the course of 162 — when you have elite power guys that will grind you down,” Boone said. “We’ve seen it in the first two games.”