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NEW YORK — In the Bronx, the old saying is you can’t predict baseball, but Opening Day was as predictable as it gets. The Yankees beat up on the visiting Orioles for their first win of the 2019 season (NYY 7, BAL 2). Andrew Cashner couldn’t complete five innings and, for much of the afternoon, it was a clear mismatch.
The Yankees scored all the runs they would need right in the first inning. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton hammered opposite field singles against the shift, then cleanup hitter Luke Voit brought them home with a loud home run to center field. It hit above the windows on the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar. Check it out:
“It felt good off the bat — I did my little Sammy Sosa hop — it felt good to pick up where I left off,” said Voit following the game. “To get that first hit out of the way is always nice.”
Through one game Voit is hitting a cool 1.000/1.000/4.000 after the home run, two walks, and a hit-by-pitch. The hit-by-pitch came with the bases loaded to force in an insurance run. After the home run, Voit got nothing to hit. He took one more swing the rest of the afternoon, and when you look at where the O’s pitched him, it’s easy to understand why:”Me and G, we just have to get on base for Voit, and he took care of the rest,” said Judge after the game. “He might tell you he’s nervous, but you can never tell. He’s got ice in his veins. First inning, get a couple guys on, get the crowd into it, for him to take that shot (to center). What an at-bat by him. All his at-bats. He’d just locked in.” Voit opened the season as the Yankees cleanup hitter following a six-week assault on American League pitching last year. The Yankees acquired him from the Cardinals in a seemingly minor trade deadline deal last summer and he responded with a .333/.405/.689 batting line and 14 home runs in 39 games. It was no fluke either. His Statcast numbers:
Will he put up a 1.094 OPS all season? Probably not. But this was not a player living off bloops and seeing-eye grounders. The Yankees believe in exit velocity as an evaluation tool — it’s not a coincidence they drafted Judge — and Voit has always put up big exit velocity numbers. He crushes the ball. The Yankees picked him up on the cheap last year and have been rewarded handsomely. Voit is a legitimate middle of the order force.
“That’s what we talk about with him all the time. He controls the strike zone, the authority to hit the ball the other way. Today center field to get us off and running,” manager Aaron Boone said following the Opening Day win. “His at-bats continued to be — you get a little greedy there (later in the game). Opening Day, you’ve got a three-run homer in the books, you’ve got runners on base, but he never left the zone.”
Judge (2 for 3 with two walks) and Stanton (1 for 3 with two walks) had strong Opening Days and are the centerpieces of New York’s lineup, and that will never not be the case. Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres were both worthy Rookie of the Year candidates last season. Gary Sanchez remains the best power-hitting catcher in the game as well. The Yankees are not short on offense, yet Voit does kind of sneak up on you in the lineup, even as the cleanup hitter.
Look, the Orioles are not good. The three pitchers Voit faced Thursday (Cashner, Mike Wright, David Hess) combined to allow 216 runs in 340 2/3 innings last year. The O’s are bad and the Yankees treated them accordingly. In Voit’s case, he continued doing what we saw last year, meaning loud contact and great at-bats. The Yankee Stadium crowd serenaded him with “LUUUKE” chants and it looks like the Yankees have poached another undervalued player from another organization, like they did with Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, and Chad Green.
“It’s crazy how (the fans) took me in,” said Voit. “I hope they don’t boo me away too quick, because I know it’s New York. I’ll bring the energy and have fun with the guys. I think a lot of the fans feed off it.”