The coldest I have ever been at Yankee Stadium wasn’t for a Yankees game. It was for the Rangers-Islandes outdoor game on Jan. 29, 2014. Yes, an outdoor game … in late January … at night.
Even though my feet were frozen when the Zamboni came on after the first period and my $11 beer had turned to slush well before that and my fingers and toes were so cold that I stood in the corner of my apartment shower an hour after the game ended trying to avoid the hot water that caused the same sting sensation when both of your legs fall asleep and it hurts too much to move them, it was worth it. It was worth it because at least the Rangers won the game. They made sitting outside for three hours at the end of January for a game in which the play was so far away the puck wasn’t visible and having to freeze through intermission performances from Cee-Lo Green worth it. Because they won.
On Tuesday at the Stadium, it was freezing. Not as cold as that Rangers-Islanders game, but as cold as it could be for an April afternoon baseball game and colder than any of the previous Opening Day and Opening Night (2005) games I have sat through. With a chance to start the season with a win for the first time since 2011 and avenge the wild-card game to the same Dallas Keuchel and the Astros, the Yankees basically just continued the end of the 2015 season.
Outside of Starlin Castro’s two-run double in the second inning, the Yankees managed just three hits off of Keuchel once again with a fourth coming on a Didi Gregorius home run in the ninth in a failed comeback attempt. That’s right, a second baseman who can hit! The Yankees might have been able to use that last season when they were wasting 532 plate appearances between Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan. Castro’s two-run double was almost enough for me to forgive Joe Girardi for hitting him eighth, one spot behind Chase Headley and six spots behind Aaron Hicks, but it wasn’t. The Yankees’ lineup against right-handed pitching needs to change and it needs to change now.
But outside of my usual Girardi lineup complaints, Masahiro Tanaka was his usual former ace self, blowing a two-run lead and lasting just 5 2/3 innings. Chasen Shreve looked like pre-September Shreve before Dellin Betances blew the game with a leadoff walk to Jose Altuve and an errant throw into Carlos Correa’s back down the first-base line. Jacoby Ellsbury and Headley combined to go 0-for-7 with three strikeouts, and after Ellsbury whined his way into this lineup way back in October, it Brett Gardner sitting Opening Day out in the same situation as the one-game playoff. But it didn’t matter that it was Gardner sitting out because when he got his chance, he struck out in his only at-bat when he pinch-hit for the hitless Hicks.
The offense was basically non-existent, the starting pitching wasn’t good enough and the bullpen couldn’t be the invincible bullpen it needs to be to make sure this season doesn’t end up as bad as 2013 and 2014 or as disappointing as 2015. It was every preseason negative fear about this team squeezed into one game. Thankfully it’s just that: one game.
There are 161 to go, but the off day tomorrow before Game 2 is going to feel as long as the six-month offseason, which just ended.