For baseball fans in Canada, nothing signals Opening Day quite like waking up to sub-zero-degree weather. Sure, I had snow on my front porch this morning, but it felt like the beginning of summer was just hours away as the Toronto Blue Jays were set to take on the New York Yankees to kick off the 2021 regular season.
Fortunately, this game offered everything you could want as a Jays fan and more as they beat the Yankees 3-2 after 10 innings of play. It stayed close throughout as both teams limited the offense, with a stellar pitching matchup between Hyun-Jin Ryu and Gerrit Cole, the aces of their respective pitching clubs, followed by some stingy relief pitching.
Ryu, the Korean southpaw in the second season of his four-year, $80 million contract, went only 5 1/3 innings due to a high pitch count but was efficient as he struck out five batters and walked just one. The only damage he sustained came in the form of a 2-run homer from Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, and his defense had Ryu’s back, including this phenomenal diving play by SS turned 2B Marcus Semien to end the 5th.
Here's how you make a GREAT first impression 😱 pic.twitter.com/cTV1Q5PrM7
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 1, 2021
Two batters later, the Blue Jays tied it up with a solo blast from outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, whose 2021 campaign picked up right where he left off last year when he hit the 5th most home runs in all of baseball. As the Jays headed to bat in the first inning, I was bracing myself as Cole, the preseason AL Cy Young favourite, was stellar in his first season as a Yankee and entered the game with a 3-0 record and 11.2 K/9 in his career vs the Jays, but he was pulled without completing the 6th inning after 97 pitches and 2 earned runs. The Blue Jays got on the board first with an RBI single from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the second inning, followed by Teoscar’s home run on a hanging breaking ball that couldn’t have been any more in the middle of the strike zone. With an exit velocity of 110mph (which is really good) Hernandez nearly took the cover off of this poor ball.
Teoscar Hernandez got ALLLLLL of this one
110.3 mph off the bat pic.twitter.com/7zs8GNz2Cd
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) April 1, 2021
Following this blast, both teams turned to their bullpens and we had a tie game going into extra innings. To prevent baseball fans from falling asleep watching ballgames that last 7 hours due to stalemates during extras, the MLB implemented a new rule prior to last season where teams start the 10th inning and so on with a runner on second and no outs, which is also being implemented again this year. Say what you want about this new format, which always seemed to disservice the Jays last season when their bullpen couldn’t even buy an out if they wanted to at times, but it played to Toronto’s advantage today as a leadoff double in the 10th off of Randal Grichuk’s bat drove in the game’s winning run. This extra-inning clutchness continued in the bottom of the inning as relief pitcher Julian Merryweather stranded Aaron Judge on second as he struck out the side to pick up the save and secure the first victory of the Blue Jays’ season.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 1, 2021
One of my favourite parts about watching this game was the good uniform matchup. The Blue Jays were rocking their ‘New Blue’ alternates, which were first unveiled last season, and coming from an unbiased baseball journalist these belong in the upper tier of Major League Baseball jerseys. The powder blue with navy accents is such a clean look and evokes the nostalgia of when Bell, Moseby, and Barfield struck fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers on a daily basis in the late 1980s. These fresh threads represent a young, exciting era for Blue Jays baseball, and when you put them on the same field as the Yankees’ classic pinstripes you’re gonna have an aesthetically pleasing ballgame.
Overall, this was a great Opening Day for the Toronto Blue Jays and their fans kicking off a season where there are some relatively high expectations surrounding this ballclub. After a few seasons of mediocrity and rebuilding, this year’s squad is projected to go 85-77 according to PECOTA, which puts them in the thick of the Wild Card race. The team’s young core is still developing, and there are certainly some uncertainties surrounding the numerous free agent signings acquired in the offseason, but I am optimistic that this team can perform well over the course of a campaign that has nearly 2.7 times as many games as 2020’s shortened season offered. I’m looking forward to watching this team 161 more times this summer, though it’ll be hard to top a pretty impressive Opening Day victory over one of our least-liked division rivals.
Tune into Game #2 of the year this Saturday, April 3rd at 1:05pm ET where Ross Stripling is expected to take the mound for the boys in blue. I’ll have you covered on everything Blue Jays-related throughout what should be an exciting season