It might have been just one of 162 regular season games this year, but the Blue Jays’ victory over the Yankees on Opening Day set an important tone.
If you’re the type to have read MLB projections and predictions ahead of the first game of the season, you likely saw that almost everyone has picked the Yankees to win the AL East. In fact, most of what I read saw the Yankees as the favourites to represent the American League in the World Series. That’s with good reason too, as they’re got a very strong roster and they have been a legitimate contender for a while now, making the playoffs last year and winning 103 games in 2019.
For the Blue Jays, the best possible way they could have started the 2021 campaign is with a win over the Bronx Bombers. It would have been even better if the Jays gave them a “punch in the mouth” with a 10-2 drubbing, but winning a tight game on Thursday might have been just as good or even better. The Jays won with a great start from Hyun Jin Ryu, a rock solid bullpen performance, and some great defensive plays from the likes of Marcus Semien and Cavan Biggio.
Winning a game by doing the “little things” is a great sign for this young team, and it’s even better that it came with Gerrit Cole on the mound for the Yankees as well. A lot of the time, a start from Cole all but guarantees a win for New York, as he’s one of the very best starting pitchers in baseball. It’s very encouraging that Ryu matched him step for step on Thursday, as they both finished with a line of 5.1 innings with two earned runs allowed each. Ryu was arguably even a bit better, as he gave up just four hits and one walk to Cole’s five hits and two walks.
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Not to read too much into just one game, but it’s also encouraging that the Blue Jays started on a positive note without their big offseason acquisition, George Springer. The 3x All-Star has started the year on the Injured List while recovering from a Grade 2 oblique strain, and hopefully won’t miss more than a week or two.
As for the Yankees, they have to be pleased to have a healthy Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup to begin the year, but they are missing last year’s American League home run champ in Luke Voit, who will be out for at least a month. The Yankees were also without Aroldis Chapman, who was serving a brief suspension, and could have been useful in the 10th inning.
Every year we hear things like “it’s just one game”, and there’s an element of truth to the statement when you’re talking about a 162 game schedule. However, every year as the playoff race comes to a close in the fall, one game can make a world of difference. The Blue Jays just picked up an important win that might matter a great deal when we get to September, but more importantly, they sent the Yankees home with a loss on Opening Day in their home stadium and with Gerrit Cole on the mound.
That’s more than just a regular win, and hopefully it’s just the beginning of a special year for the Blue Jays.