Judge fires as Yankees make fast start
NEW YORK, March 30 (Reuters) - American League MVP Aaron Judge kicked off the New York Yankees season in style on Thursday, launching a solo homer in his first at-bat of the year in a 5-0 win over the San Francisco Giants.
The Bronx Bombers have not won the title since 2009 and fans were shattered when eventual champions Houston Astros stopped their last post-season cold with a clean sweep in the ALCS.
Judge quickly reminded the sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium why hope springs eternal for the 27-times world champions, however, launching one over the center field wall after assuming the captain's job in the off-season.
"To set the tone for us like that, especially after the off-season and signing back and (becoming) captain - for him to kind of get us rolling was very fitting," manager Aaron Boone told reporters.
While Judge is coming off a blockbuster 2022 in which he broke the AL single-season home run record, however, he cannot do it alone.
The big question mark is whether the Yankees can steady their starting rotation, with Luis Severino and Carlos Rodon entering the season injured and Frankie Montas possibly missing a large portion of 2023.
With a massive payroll to rival their big-spending cross-town rivals, the New York Mets, Rodon's move to the injured list stung particularly as the Yankees picked up the All-Star for a reported six-year, $162 million deal in the off-season.
"Assuming that our starting pitchers heal and are able to pitch up to form, I really think we have a daunting rotation," said Bronx-born Barbara Weinschel, a fan of more than 50 years who braved bitter cold on Thursday to watch her beloved team.
"And the hitting - we're the Yankees, we're the bombers."
Eleven strikeouts from starter Gerrit Cole - an Opening Day franchise record - did not hurt.
Nor did a handful of insurance runs, including a fourth-inning two-run homer from Gleyber Torres. Judge and DJ LeMahieu added to the advantage with an RBI each in the seventh.
Young shortstop Anthony Volpe made crafty defensive moves in his regular season debut in the pinstripes, earning roars of approval as he became the first Yankees player under 22 since Hall of Famer Derek Jeter to start Opening Day.
The game finished in a brisk two hours and 33 minutes, as the season kicked off under a raft of new rules MLB set in an effort to speed up the game and make it more exciting.
Changes included the institution of a pitch clock and the elimination of the shift.
Players in ballparks across the country seemed to have few major issues adapting, as the Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 and the Chicago Cubs downed the Milwaukee Brewers 4-0.
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