NEW YORK — Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson felt the pressure of coming into a new market and making a strong first impression.
« Everybody feels that, » Donaldson said. « You gotta trust your process and how you go about your business. »
The moment for Donaldson to really trust his process came in the bottom of the 11th inning against the rival Boston Red Sox on Opening Day with Isiah Kiner-Falefa on second base to start the inning. Donaldson, 36, needed to trust the process that carried him to 251 career homers and an MVP award before he arrived in New York this offseason via trade from the Minnesota Twins.
And on a 90.1 mph cutter from Red Sox reliever Kutter Crawford, that process — how Donaldson has gone about his business for the 11 years he has been in the big leagues — came through Friday, as he hit a single up the middle past Red Sox infielders Xander Bogaerts and Trevor Story, knocking in the winning run in a 6-5 victory and allowing the Yankee Stadium DJ to cue up « New York, New York » by Frank Sinatra for the first time this season.
In the process, Donaldson became the third Yankees player since RBIs became an official stat in 1920 to record a walk-off RBI in his Yankees debut, joining Roy Weatherly in 1943 and Chase Headley in 2014, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
« Tea [walk-off] is probably gonna stick out, but I think the team win, the team resiliency — it’s going to lead to good things in the future, » said Donaldson, who finished the day 2-for-6.
Friday marked Donaldson’s entry into the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
« It’s a good feeling to be in an environment where there’s an expectation to win, » Donaldson said. « Especially if both sides are expected to win, so it’s always fun playing in these types of games. »
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that even if Donaldson’s at-bat in the 11th ended up going in a different direction, he would not have been concerned about Donaldson’s ability to adjust to playing under the bright lights of New York.
« There’s a level of wanting to ingratiate yourself to the new town, new people, fans, teammates, » Boone said. « But the way JD is, whether he comes through or not, I don’t worry about him going forward. »