The way Domingo German pitched in spring training to win the Yankees’ fifth starter job made his first regular-season start in 19 months a much-anticipated one.
But Sunday turned out to be more of a dud, and not just for the right-hander.
German gave up a pair of homers in a three-inning start and the Yankees’ quiet bats offered no help as they fell to the Blue Jays, 3-1, in the opening series’ rubber game at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees mustered only five hits against T.J. Zeuch and a parade of Blue Jays relievers, going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. The final 11 Yankees batters were retired in order as they dropped the series against a Blue Jays team that is expected to be a challenger this season in the AL East.
It had been 564 days since German last took the mound in a major league game, serving an 81-game suspension in between for violating MLB’s domestic-violence policy after an incident involving his girlfriend. Upon his return to the Yankees this spring, he faced some criticism from at least two of his teammates and had to address the team to offer an apology before doing the same publicly.
Before he was suspended late in the 2019 season, German was 18-4 with a 4.03 ERA. He came back to win a spot in the rotation with a strong spring training, giving up just two runs in 13 innings.
But German, who received an applause from the crowd of 10,066 during pregame introductions, needed 68 pitches to get through three innings, allowing three runs in the loss.
After working around a double for a 12-pitch first inning, German ran into trouble in the second. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. tagged a fastball for a leadoff home run to the opposite field, putting the Blue Jays up 1-0. After a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. single, German left a changeup over the heart of the plate and Randal Grichuk crushed it to left field for a two-run homer and the 3-0 lead.
Following a strikeout for the first out of the inning, German walked Alejandro Kirk on his 38th pitch of the day, at which point Michael King began to warm in the Yankees bullpen. But German got out of the inning on his own eight pitches later, allowing him to toss one more frame before King relieved him to begin the fourth.
In the fifth inning, the Yankees finally broke through for a run thanks to Clint Frazier’s legs. He led off the inning with a bloop to shallow right field, hustling out of the box to turn it into a double. Frazier then tagged up and got to third on Gio Urshela’s flyout before scoring on Brett Gardner’s groundout to make it 3-1.
The Yankees had other chances to put together rallies, but failed to do so, stranding a runner in every inning from the second to the sixth.
King, meanwhile, saved the bullpen and kept the Yankees in the game. After surviving a bases-loaded jam in his first inning, he went on to retire 16 straight while tossing the final six innings of the game.