The way Domingo German pitched in spring training to earn the Yankees’ fifth-place starter made his first regular-season start in 19 months highly anticipated.
But Sunday turned out to be more of a fiasco, and not just for the right-hander.
German allowed a pair of home runs in a three-inning start and the Yankees’ silent bats offered no help when they fell to the Blue Jays, 3-1, in the opening series rubber game at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees collected just five hits against TJ Zeuch and a parade of Blue Jays relievers, going 0-for-5 with running backs in scoring position. The last 11 batters for the Yankees retired in order when they lost the series to a Blue Jays team 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 being suspended at the end of the 2019 season, German was 18-4 with a 4.03 ERA. He came back to earn a spot in the rotation with strong spring training, allowing just two runs in 13 innings.
But German, who received applause from the 10,066 crowd during pregame appearances, needed 68 pitches to pass three innings, allowing three runs in the loss.
After working around a double for a 12-pitch first inning, German struggled in the second. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a fastball for an opening homer to opposite field, putting the Blue Jays up 1-0. After a single by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., German made a change to the heart of the plate and Randal Grichuk crushed it to left field for a two-run homer and a 3-0 lead.
Following a strikeout in 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 up in the Yankees bullpen. But German came out of the inning on his own eight pitches later, allowing him to throw one more frame before King relieved him to start the fourth.
In the fifth inning, the Yankees finally managed to run thanks to Clint Frazier’s legs. He opened the inning with a bloop to shallow right field, coming out of the box to make it a double. Frazier then scored and reached third on a fly by Gio Urshela before scoring on a groundout by Brett Gardner to make it 3-1.
The Yankees had other opportunities to build rallies, but they failed, leaving a running back in each inning from second through sixth.
Meanwhile, King saved the bullpen and kept the Yankees in the game. After surviving a bases loaded jam in his first inning, he retired 16 in a row while pitching the final six innings of the game.