Juan Soto helps Yankees overcome early deficit to beat Astros 5-4 on Opening Day

Despite leaving 10 men on base, the Yankees came back from an early deficit to defeat the Astros 5-4 on Opening Day in Houston.

Yankees starter Nestor Cortes gave up four runs in the first two innings but settled down and allowed the Yankees bats to scratch and claw their way back to win on Thursday afternoon.

Here are the takeaways....

- Cortes was not sharp early, unable to locate his pitches as he walked two to load the bases in the first inning. With two outs and a full count to Chas McCormick, Cortes left a cutter over the plate and the outfielder hit a two-run single up the middle. Yainer Diaz followed up with a single on a 93 mph fastball up over the plate to give the Astros a 3-0 lead after one inning.

After a leadoff home run by No. 9 hitter Jake Meyers in the second, Cortes settled down. After throwing 33 pitches in the first inning, he threw just 33 in the next three innings and gutted through five innings to give the Yankees a chance on Thursday afternoon.

Cortes' final line: 5 IP (76 pitches), 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB and 5 K.

- On the other side, Framber Valdez pitched around a lot of base runners. The Yankees' bats got to him often, once in the second when they loaded the bases but Jose Trevino grounded into a double play.

The Yankees would have another opportunity in the fourth inning with the bases loaded and Alex Verdugo up. The new Yankee left-hander also grounded into an inning-ending double play.

New York would find themselves in another bases-loaded situation, this time with no outs in the fifth inning. Juan Soto delivered the first run of the Yankees' season with a single. Aaron Judge, however, struck out on three pitches. Giancarlo Stanton followed by striking out swinging. Anthony Rizzo drove in the Yankees' second run of the game, but because of a 95 mph fastball from Valdez that hit the Yankee first baseman in the wrist/forearm area. Anthony Volpe walked in the third Yankees run -- after Valdez was taken out -- but Verdugo grounded out to end the threat.

Valdez's final line: 4.2 IP (86 pitches), 5 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 5 K.

Oswaldo Cabrera, starting at third base because newly-acquired infielder Jon Berti made it to Houston late and manager Aaron Boone wanted him to settle in, tied the game with a solo shot in the sixth inning when he turned on an 85 mph slider from Rafael Montero that went 381 feet.

Cabrera was hot at the end of spring training, going 9-for-24 to end camp. He finished 2-for-4.

- The tandem of Soto and Judge will be a big reason the Yankees find success this season and it got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Soto started his Yankee career in typical Soto fashion, with an eight-pitch walk, but Judge followed by grounding into a 6-4-3 double play on the first pitch of the next at-bat.

Soto's second at-bat was cut short after he was called out on strikes after three pitches. The strikeout pitch was above the strike zone but Valdez was the beneficiary of the call. Soto picked up an RBI single in his third at-bat and grounded to third in his fourth. He walked, of course, in his final at-bat of the game.

Judge had an up-and-down Opening Day. After grounding into a double play, he walked and then struck out with the bases loaded. But he also doubled and scored the Yankees' fifth run on Verdugo's sac fly. His final at-bat saw the 2022 AL MVP strike out for the second time.

Speaking of Verdugo, he was solid in his Yankees debut. While he did pick up a single in his first at-bat, he was up with the bases loaded twice and after grounding into a double play, he was able to lift a fly ball to left field to give the Yanks the 5-4 lead in the seventh. He also made a nifty play in left field to track down a line drive that would have likely scored a run, instead it was an out.

All three outfielders combined to go 3-for-10 with three walks and two RBI.

- Things got interesting in the ninth inning. Clay Holmes allowed men to reach first and second with one out when Kyle Tucker laced a single to right field. Soto charged the ball and threw a strike to Trevino, who got the running Mauricio Dubon out at home to preserve the lead.

Holmes then got Alex Bregman to ground out to end the game.


What's Next

The Yankees continue their four-game series with the Astros on Friday with first pitch scheduled for 8:10 p.m.

Carlos Rodon will take the mound, opposed by Cristian Javier.