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J.A. Happ threw 96 pitches in Toronto’s opening day loss to the New York Yankees on Thursday afternoon.
He was happy with all but one of them.
Happ missed on a fastball to Giancarlo Stanton in the first inning and the 2017 NL MVP launched it over the right-centre field fence for a two-run homer, putting the Yankees up early en route to a 6-1 win over the Blue Jays.
Stanton, the Yankees’ prized off-season acquisition, homered twice in the game and drove in four runs in his New York debut.
“I tried to throw a two-seamer and I just pulled it a little bit. That’s a pitch I’d like to have back,” said Happ, who threw 4 2/3 innings and allowed three runs [two earned], four hits and one walk while striking out five in his first career opening day start.
“I think the reality is sometimes one mistake is one too many to win a ballgame.”
Catcher Russell Martin agreed with the veteran left-hander’s assessment.
“Really if there was one pitch we could have back it would be the one to Stanton. Kind of a two-seamer away that pulled and caught the middle of the plate and he put a good swing on it,” Martin said. “But overall I liked what he did. We just didn’t score enough runs for him.”
Luis Severino had a lot to do with that.
The Yankees starter struck out seven and held Toronto to just one hit and three walks over 5 2/3 innings. Brett Gardner also homered and Gary Sanchez drove in another run for New York (1-0).
Kevin Pillar supplied Toronto’s (0-1) offence with a solo homer off reliever Dellin Betances in the eighth inning.
All-star third baseman Josh Donaldson, who was slowed by a shoulder issue early in spring training, struggled with weak throws across the diamond throughout the game, including one in the sixth inning that pulled first baseman Justin Smoak off the bag. Smoak recovered, stretching his toe to the base to get the out, which was upheld after video review.
Manager John Gibbons said Donaldson’s arm “feels kinda dead, not injured.”
“I’ve been feeling it a little bit all spring, it’s just kinda been ongoing back and forth,” Donaldson elaborated. “But I don’t have any pain or anything like that so that’s always good. It’s just getting the strength back.”
Donaldson said he’ll be cautious with the shoulder and Gibbons suggested he’d DH his star third baseman until he feels better. A quick fix would be ideal for Toronto, which is already without shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for the foreseeable future. The team placed Tulowitzki on the 60-day disabled list with bone spurs in both his heels earlier in the day. He hasn’t played since sustaining an ankle injury last July.
The Blue Jays were outhit 11-2 and struck out 12 times Thursday. The miserable offensive showing matched the weather conditions in Toronto, where rain drizzled outside the domed Rogers Centre all day.
Donaldson chalked up the team’s struggles to Severino’s dominant performance.
“When you have Severino pitching like he was today it’s going to be difficult,” he said. “We have to disrupt him somehow, get some runners on base. Opening day is unique to the extent where it’s kinda hard to get into your routine. You have a lot of things going on before the game [but] Severino had a very nice game.”
Stanton earned his third RBI in the fifth, smacking a line drive double off Canadian reliever John Axford to cash in Aaron Judge from first base. Sanchez followed with a run-scoring double and Gardner hit a solo homer off Danny Barnes in the seventh for a 5-0 Yankees lead.
Stanton’s second home run, a solo shot, came off Tyler Clippard in the ninth.
“You’ve got to pitch them tough,” Martin said of how to navigate the tough Yankees lineup. “Baseball’s one of those games where if you do make a mistake and there’s a good hitter up there he’s going to make you pay. … The key is still to be aggressive but just out-think them.”
Pillar’s eighth-inning homer was just Toronto’s second hit of the game. Curtis Granderson, who began the day with a first-inning fielding error in left, hit a single to centre field for his first hit as a Blue Jay in the fourth inning.
The game began with a touching tribute to Roy Halladay, the former Blue Jays ace who died last November when the small sport plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. His No. 32 was retired by the organization, marked by the unfurling of a banner from the centre-field rafters.
Halladay’s sons, 17-year-old Braden and 13-year-old Ryan, placed the game ball on the mound instead of throwing a ceremonial first pitch.