Marcus Stroman dazzles in home opener but Yankees bats go silent in loss to Blue Jays

NEW YORK — An amped-up Marcus Stroman froze on the pitcher’s mound, stuck out his tongue and peered toward the Yankees dugout as he pounded his blue-hued glove.

The demonstrative right-hander, animated as ever, had reason to celebrate.

A swinging strikeout of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Blue Jays’ biggest bat, had just finished off a scoreless fifth inning for Stroman, a native of Medford, N.Y., who days earlier described starting the Yankees’ home opener as a “dream come true.”

It was a heck of a homecoming.

Stroman, a two-time All-Star who joined the Yankees in the offseason, hurled six scoreless innings in Friday’s Bronx debut, striking out six against three hits and a walk on 98 pitches. He collected a no-decision, however, as the Yankees’ new-look lineup failed to break through in a 3-0 loss.

Much of the attention Friday revolved around the Yankees’ main marquee offseason acquisition, right fielder Juan Soto, whose torrid season-opening road trip earned him American League Player of the Week honors.

But while Soto came away empty in his Yankee Stadium debut, going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, Stroman excelled, particularly in pressure situations. He stranded four Blue Jays, including George Springer, who began the game with a line-drive double on the very first pitch.

In the fourth inning, Stroman induced a shallow popout from Alejandro Kirk, leaving runners on second and third.

And before his final out of the day — a Davis Schneider flyout — even landed in Soto’s glove, Stroman started clapping, continuing to do so as a sold-out Yankee Stadium crowd of 47,812 showered him with an opening day ovation.

“To grow up in New York watching the Yankees and to be able to pitch a home opener in my career, I’m just very thankful and, honestly, grateful,” Stroman said Wednesday as he geared up for the outing. “It’s a moment that I feel like I’ll never forget.”

Friday’s scoreless start followed Stroman’s team debut last Saturday in Houston, where he limited the power-hitting Astros to three unearned runs over six innings in a 5-3 win. He now boasts a 0.00 ERA through 12 innings this season.

“The reason he’s so good out there in those big moments is that he’s really big into breathing and slowing the moment down,” fellow starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt, a mentee of Stroman who features a similarly sinker-and-cutter-heavy repertoire, told the New York Daily News before Friday’s game. “When things get a little chaotic out there, [he’s] not letting the moment get too crazy.”

Stroman, a 2012 first-round pick by Toronto, debuted with the Blue Jays in 2014 and spent five-and-a-half seasons with them. He also pitched for the Mets and Cubs before signing a two-year, $37 million contract with the Yankees in January.

“He’s a competitor,” Jose Trevino, who caught Friday’s outing, told The News before the game. “He wants to win. He’s here for a reason.”

Toronto scored its first run Friday immediately after Stroman exited, with pinch hitter Ernie Clement — a native of Rochester, N.Y. — leading off the seventh inning with a home run against Yankees reliever Caleb Ferguson. The Blue Jays added two more runs in the ninth inning on a pair of Nick Burdi wild pitches.

The Yankees’ offense, meanwhile, managed only six hits against five Blue Jays pitchers, including starter Yusei Kikuchi, who struck out seven over 5 1/3 scoreless innings. Soto, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton — the Yankees’ two-through-four hitters — combined to go 0 for 10 with five strikeouts.

Back-to-back singles by Anthony Rizzo and Anthony Volpe brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in the ninth inning, but Alex Verdugo flew out to right field as former Yankees reliever Chad Green finished off the save.

With the loss, the Yankees fell to 6-2. Toronto improved to 4-4.

The Yankees’ next opportunity for their first home win of 2024 comes Saturday night, with Clarke Schmidt (0-0, 5.06 ERA) set to pitch against Toronto ace Kevin Gausman (0-0, 2.08 ERA).