Yankees’ opening punch against Royals a warning to opponents

New York Yankees’ Jose Trevino hits a three-run home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo.
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Michael Bennington
Thursday June 13, 2024

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The New York Yankees’ first-inning onslaught on the Royals brings a warning to opponents down the road. Their shellacking in Kansas City on Wednesday is a glimpse of firepower they are already to unleash even against the best arms in MLB.

The Royals, who entered their series against the New York Yankees with one of the American League’s best pitching staffs and a solid season record, found themselves thoroughly outclassed on Wednesday. Despite being 12 games over .500 and emerging as potential postseason contenders, the Royals have struggled mightily at Kauffman Stadium, losing the first three games of the series in decisive fashion.

The Yankees have dominated the series, outscoring the Royals 25-8, including an 11-5 rout on Wednesday night. This victory marks New York’s 12th win in their last 14 games, propelling them to the best record in Major League Baseball at 49-21, and a season-high 28 games above .500.

For the third straight game, the Yankees took an early lead, scoring six runs in the first inning on Wednesday. They have scored in the first inning of each game in the series, accumulating a total of 10 first-inning runs and leading throughout all 27 innings played.

New York Yankees’ Anthony Volpe jumps to steal a base against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo.
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Jose Trevino‘s three-run homer with two outs off left-hander Daniel Lynch IV capped the Yankees’ explosive first inning. The backstop remarked on the importance of striking first, with his home run serving as a decisive blow early in the game.

“Especially being the visitors, you want to punch first,” he said about his three-run homer in the first inning that gave his team a 6-0 lead.

The Yankees have tallied 57 first-inning runs this season, the highest in baseball. The top trio of Anthony Volpe, Juan Soto, and Aaron Judge has exceeded expectations, consistently providing a strong start that often sets the tone for the rest of the game.

Yankees’ opening blow totters Royals

New York Yankees’ Anthony Volpe celebrates in the dugout after scoring on a two-run single by Alex Verdugo during the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo.
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The New York Yankees quickly seized control of Wednesday’s game against an AL Central opponent, setting the stage for their 15th consecutive win against teams from that division within the first few minutes.

Facing opener Dan Altavilla, Anthony Volpe led off with a single up the middle. Juan Soto followed with a five-pitch walk, and Aaron Judge singled to right field. After Giancarlo Stanton struck out, Alex Verdugo hit a ground ball that slipped past first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino for a two-run single.

A walk to Gleyber Torres triggered a pitching change, leading to an Anthony Rizzo sacrifice fly. Jose Trevino then capped the inning with a three-run homer, boosting his Theoretical Demoralization Added statistic significantly.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone lauded the team’s performance, highlighting the solid at-bats throughout the inning. Although it was the first time the Yankees scored six runs in the opening inning since September 10, 2022, against the Rays, they have consistently delivered strong starts. The Yankees boast a league-best .971 OPS in the first inning, far ahead of the second-place Diamondbacks, who entered Wednesday’s games with a .897 OPS in the initial frame.

“A lot of good things obviously happened in that inning, starting with Volp’,” the manager said. “Just everyone putting together really good at-bats … Great to see them coming out like that.”

Stanton, who added a two-run homer in the fifth inning, stressed the importance of taking an early lead, “It’s important to throw the first punch.” The Yankees‘ top trio has been exceptional in the first inning: Volpe is hitting .327 with a .871 OPS, Soto reaches base nearly half the time with a .493 on-base percentage, and Judge showcases an outstanding .544 OBP and 1.563 OPS.

New York Yankees’ Alex Verdugo hits a home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo.
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Cody Poteet, who limited the Kansas City Royals to two runs over 5 1/3 innings on Wednesday, enjoyed watching the New York Yankees’ offensive fireworks, saying it inspires him to aggressively attack the strike zone. Poteet, stepping in for the injured Clarke Schmidt, managed to navigate through occasional trouble until the sixth inning when Bobby Witt Jr. hit an RBI double.

The Yankees kept adding to their lead in the middle innings, making it nearly impossible for the Royals to mount a comeback. Giancarlo Stanton hit a powerful home run, followed by Gleyber Torres’ three-run shot in the seventh inning, bringing the Yankees’ run total to double digits for the second consecutive night.

Despite a late push by the Royals, who scored three runs off the Yankees’ bullpen in the seventh inning, the outcome had been effectively decided by the sixth. 

Yankees manager Aaron Boone praised the team’s lineup, highlighting the contributions of Anthony Volpe, Juan Soto, Aaron Judge, Alex Verdugo, and Giancarlo Stanton, noting that it’s a strong way to start any game.

“(Anthony) Volpe, (Juan) Soto, (Aaron) Judge, (Alex Verdugo) Duggie, (Giancarlo) Stanton, on and on,” Boone said. “It’s a pretty good way to start off a ballgame. The hitters as a whole have done a really good job of being prepared and having a game plan and trusting one another.”

In this series alone, the Yankees have scored 10 runs on nine hits and three walks in the first inning, with the finale still to come on Thursday. Leading the league with 57 first-inning runs this season, the Yankees’ explosive starts, coupled with their solid pitching and consistent rotation, have been a major factor in their success this year.

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