Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton Power Yankees by Nationals in Rain-Soaked Opener

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJuly 24, 2020

New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole throws during the first inning of an opening day baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/Associated Press

The 2020 Major League Baseball season began with a New York Yankees victory.

New York started its campaign with a 4-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on Thursday at Nationals Park in a game that was called in the sixth inning because of rain. Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole led the way in the first of 60 games in what is sure to be an unusual season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

There will be fanless stadiums, piped-in crowd noise, consistent COVID-19 testing and a sprint to the playoffs, but New York looked ready to defend its American League East crown with a powerful lineup and new ace.

            

Notable Player Stats

Gerrit Cole, SP, NYY: 5.0 innings, one earned run, one hit, one walk and five strikeouts

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Max Scherzer, SP, WAS: 5.1 innings, four earned runs, six hits, four walks and 11 strikeouts

Giancarlo Stanton, DH, NYY: 2-for-3, one home run, three RBI and one run

Aaron Judge, RF, NYY: 2-for-3, one run and one RBI

Adam Eaton, RF, WAS: 1-for-2, one home run, one RBI and one run

   

Gerrit Cole Cruises Past Less Formidable Nationals Lineup

Cole was a familiar face for the Nationals considering he made two starts in last year's World Series as a member of the Houston Astros. The teams split those games, with Cole turning in a brilliant performance in the Houston win and struggling in his team's loss.

The brilliant version showed up Thursday, which is welcome news for the Yankees after they signed him to a nine-year, $324 million contract this offseason.

It appeared as if Cole would struggle in his New York debut when he served up a solo home run to Adam Eaton in the first inning, but he settled in from there and showed why he is one of the best pitchers in the league as a three-time All-Star coming off two straight years with an ERA below 3.00.

The Nationals struggled to even threaten after the home run, as the right-hander missed bats and induced weak contact against a lineup that was not the same as the one he faced in October.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters before the game that star left fielder Juan Soto tested positive for COVID-19 and was asymptomatic. The 21-year-old is expected to anchor the lineup this year, especially after slugger Anthony Rendon signed with the Los Angeles Angels this offseason.

Washington was unable to generate much offense without those big bats against one of baseball's best arms.

            

Giancarlo Stanton Makes Yankees Lineup Downright Terrifying

New York blasted 306 home runs last season, which was more than every team in league history except the 2019 Minnesota Twins, who just so happened to set the league record with 307 long balls the same year.

All those home runs came even though the Yankees were crushed by injuries to a number of key players throughout the year, including Stanton (who played 18 games), Aaron Judge (who played 102 games) and Gary Sanchez (who played 106 games).

Stanton wasted no time reintroducing his power on a national stage, drilling a two-run homer more than 450 feet into the empty bleachers in the first inning and adding some insurance with an RBI single the opposite way to create some breathing room in the fifth.

Judge did his part in the dynamic duo with an RBI double in the third, underscoring just how dangerous the pair can be when healthy and in a lineup that also features Gleyber Torres.

It is a testament to Max Scherzer's ability that he still managed to strike out 11 in 5.1 innings, one of which came against Brett Gardner with the bases loaded in the fifth to limit the damage after Stanton's hit. 

However, the Nationals couldn't give him quality run support, which is needed when facing a lineup with Stanton, Judge, Torres and others.

           

What's Next?

The two teams will take a day off Friday before facing each other again Saturday.