Saturday, April 14, 2012

What A Home Opener Should Be

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A Friday afternoon in the city. Sixty-five degrees under bright, sunny skies. A capacity crowd at the stadium. A beloved member of The Core Four throwing out the first pitch. And the afternoon capped off by a 5-0 shutout of the Angels. The Yankees made my day yesterday. *Curses* to not being at the stadium!

Jorge Posada, returning to the stadium to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, was a great moment. It was odd seeing him run out their in "civilian" clothes, though; just made it even more apparent that he would no longer be out their playing in pinstripes. I loved that he was able to throw the ball to his dad, the man whom he credits for making him such a great baseball player. And it was nice how the team stood behind him while he was on the mound. They'll never forget everything Jorge did for the team, and I'm sure yesterday will rank high on his list of great Yankee memories.

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So I guess all Alex Rodriguez needed was to get a whiff of the air in the Bronx. After a five-game slump, he came out blazing in yesterday's game, going 3-for-4 with two singles and his 630th home run. He also threw in a stolen base for good measure. Alex is now tied with Ken Griffey, Jr. for 5th place on the all-time home run list, and needs 30 more to tie Willie Mays for 4th place. I think he can get that done this year; last season was the first in 14 that he didn't reach the 30 homer mark, and regardless of how bad the season played out for him, I'm not ready to give up hope that A-Rod can still put up big power numbers.

And how about Nick Swisher? He's been coming up with big hits for the Yankees, and today, his three-run, base-clearing double in the first inning proved to be the game winner. Swish has been seeing the ball really well, and is looking good at the plate; he's not swinging at too many pitches out of the zone and is fouling off balls pitched inside. I'm expecting him to have a season comparable to 2010; this is a contract year for Swish and with his name having been bounced around in trade talk for the prior two seasons, it's a no-brainer that he'll have to show the organization why he's more valuable to them than not.

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But today's game was really about Hiroki Kuroda. He pitched 8+ innings of shutout ball, allowing just five hits and  two walks while striking out six. He showed all four of his pitches--fastball, slider, sinker and curveball--mixing speeds anywhere from 78 to 93 mph. He had great command throughout the game, and showed a steady demeanor for a pitcher making his debut at the stadium. It was nice to see him bounce back from his shaky start in Tampa Bay.

And Curtis Granderson hit his second homer of the season; a line drive over the porch in right field that barely looked like a double at the point of contact. Grandy started Opening Week slow, but has picked up the pace rather nicely in the last few games.

Today, Phil Hughes gets his second start and will face CJ Wilson. There are two things I'm hoping will happen: Wilson doesn't make the Yankees regret not signing him in the offseason, and A-Rod and Albert Pujols go toe-to-toe in a match-up of the active home run leader versus his heir apparent. Today's game starts at 1pm on FOX.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

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