NEW YORK — Making his first start since the end of the 2019 season, right-hander Domingo Germán was looking to carry his spring success into his regular season debut
The Toronto Blue Jays had other ideas.
After a scoreless first, Germán ran into trouble in the second, leaving pitches out over the plate. Leading off the inning, first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. turned a fastball up in the zone into a solo home run to the opposite field, sending a line drive screaming beyond the short porch at 106.9 mph.
Two batters later, Germán served a hanging changeup to Randal Grichuk. The center fielder hooked a two-run shot past the foul pole down the left-field line, making it a 3-0 game.
On both home runs, catcher Gary Sánchez set up at the very bottom of the strike zone behind the dish. Both pitches wound up right over the heart of the plate.
"In that second inning, he's probably a hitter away from getting taken out just because his pitch count got so high," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "I just didn't feel like he was a sharp with some of his secondary pitches ... just made a couple of mistakes they made him pay."
Asked about that costly second inning, Germán agreed with his skipper about what went wrong.
"My command wasn't as sharp specifically in that inning," he said through the Yankees' interpreter. "Left a couple pitches there and they were able to connect and I think those those were the key mistakes for me."
Germán was able to settle down and get out of the inning unscathed, but the damage had already been done. Right-hander Michael King came in to start the fourth inning, signaling the end of Germán's 2021 debut.
Over those three frames, Germán threw 68 pitches, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out two. As much as Germán likely could've pitched another inning or two, there was less of a reason to push the envelope this early in the season.
Those two home runs proved to be the difference as Toronto held on to defeat the Yankees 3-1, winning the rubber match of the first series of the year.
Germán didn't throw a single pitch in the big leagues last year while he served the remainder of his 81-game suspension for violating MLB's domestic violence policy. All spring, the 28-year-old was working to regain the trust of his teammates and prove he had matured since the incident that led to the suspension in September of 2019.
If it wasn't for King's magnificent performance out of the 'pen, twirling six scoreless innings in relief to get through the end of the game, several members of New York's bullpen would've needed to come in and eat up innings. Instead, that group will be rested heading into Monday night's series opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium.
As for Germán, the right-hander understands that it's a long season. While he was disappointed, he recognized that he needs to move forward and not allow one rocky outing to "rattle" his confidence.
"Definitely things did not work out the way I wanted them and now, just make a couple adjustments and focus on the next outing," he said. "Still have a long season ahead and the important thing is that I feel good, I feel healthy. So now, it's to focus on the next outing."