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Stanton's smashing debut sparks Yankees' opening romp

TORONTO -- For openers, it could not have been a better start for Giancarlo Stanton with the New York Yankees.

Two home runs to right-center field at the Rogers Centre totaling nearly 900 feet of air time. Seriously. Major statement made.

The Yankees throttled the Blue Jays, 6-1, on Opening Day and easily the biggest talking point was about the booming bat that collected 59 home runs last year in Miami will now be on display via the bright lights of the big city.

Aaron Judge's one-word reaction to what he saw? "Wow."

Wow, indeed.

Stanton became the first Yankee to homer twice on Opening Day since the immortal Joe Pepitone in 1963. Since 1950, the only players to do that are Pepitone, Roger Maris (1960) and Mickey Mantle (1956). Pretty elite company.

Prior to the game, new manager Aaron Boone told GM Brian Cashman his "pick to click" was Stanton. Good call.

Said Cashman afterward: "We want him to impact us in the win column. It was fun to watch today."

"I just feel like the last week his timing has been really good," said Boone, who earned a convincing win in his first game in charge of a big-league dugout. "He's started to find it with his timing ... For a guy with his talent, his power, once he gets on time, he's deadly. I thought all day long he was winning pitches."

Stanton's first shot came with one out in the first off Toronto starter J.A. Happ. He turned around a 92-mph fastball and sent it screaming the other way to deep right for a 2-0 lead and the Yankees never looked back.

"That was cool, man," Stanton said. "I tried to be as calm as possible coming up. That anticipation was big for me but I was able to settle it down and understand it's just a game, even though it was big-time Opening Day, my first one as a Yankee. But I was able to calm it down."

The numbers were wild. The ball soared 426 feet with an exit velocity of 117.3 mph -- the fastest hit ever recorded at Rogers Centre and the hardest opposite-field shot MLB's StatCast has recorded since it was born three years ago.

Stanton crushed an RBI double to left-center in the fifth and then came the ninth. Veteran reliever Tyler Clippard grooved one and Stanton pounced. The ball flew higher and farther to deeeeep right-center, into the "Flight Deck" zone on the second level of the ballpark. Listed at 434 feet but seemingly longer. Not many go there. And to the opposite field? Almost never.

That can be Stanton's method. Same for Judge and Gary Sanchez. And that is just flat-out dangerous.

"For most of us, you've got to hit your best bolt the other way to hit it out," Boone said. "For those guys, they can mishit it and still leave the ballpark by a bunch to the opposite field. What it allows them to do is see the ball longer. You can get the ball deeper in the zone."

Aaron Boone calm in final hours before Yankees' debut

The Yankees even had time for some group comedy. Brett Gardner, the senior Yankee, gave the orders for the silent treatment when Stanton returned to the dugout, so he was left to simply "air high-five" his invisible teammates.

"I wasn't ready for that one," Stanton said. "I've got to have a better act next time I get through them. It's all in good fun. It helped solidify a win and we had fun in the process."

Stanton, Judge and Sanchez had six hits, five RBIs and scored four runs in this game. Starter Luis Severino allowed one hit in 5 2/3 innings and combined with three relievers on a two-hitter. It couldn't have gone much better for the Yankees.

As for the Blue Jays, they attracted a sellout crowd of 48,115 but the fans did most of their cheering before the game.

The team did a wonderful job with an emotional ceremony to honor pitcher Roy Halladay, who was killed in a plane crash over the winter. It was capped by Halladay's name being placed on the team's Level of Excellence and his No. 32 being retired, joining Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar as the only Toronto players to earn that honor.

The Toronto Chamber Orchestra did a spectacular job with the national anthems, as the assortment of strings nailed every note. The festivities ended when Halladay's two sons, accompanied by Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez, placed the game balls on the mound -- which was adorned by a No. 32 banner -- in lieu of the team having a ceremonial first pitch thrown.

It was time for baseball and time for a new voice in the broadcast booth as Ben Wagner has graduated from the Bisons after 11 years to take over the hallowed chair occupied by Tom Cheek, then Jerry Howarth for all 41 previous seasons of the franchise's existence. Big shoes indeed. Even after working five weeks of big-league spring training, Wagner felt the moment too. He told me the whole scenario was "surreal" when we chatted briefly three hours before the first pitch.

When the moment of Wagner's life came, he was ready. He calmly said, “The curtain is up” as  Happ threw a strike past Gardner on the first pitch of the game. Wagner did fine all day, just as we knew he would after listening to him in Buffalo the last 11 years.

The team whose games he's now calling? Not so much.

Ben Wagner promoted from Bisons radio to Blue Jays' booth; Pat Malacaro named replacement

Prior to the game, the Jays put oft-injured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki on the 60-day disabled list with bone spurs in both heels. Third baseman Josh Donaldson, who had no extra-base hits all spring, is clearly having some sort of shoulder issue as he struggled to make three routine throws to first and put the ball in the dirt on one.

Gardner's leadoff at-bat culminated when reached base as his routine liner to left was muffed by veteran Curtis Granderson for an excruciating season-opening error. It set a bad tone for the Jays, who seemed lifeless in this one.

Toronto didn't get a hit off Severino until Granderson's one-out single in the fourth and its only other one was Kevin Pillar's leadoff home run to left-center off Dellin Betances in the eighth.

A brutal start for one team but a gangbusters opening for the other.

"You get that first one out of the way early so you can stop worrying about it," Stanton said of his opening home run. "It was a great day. We got 10-plus hits. We put it on them."

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