Anthony Rizzo came to the Yankees at the trade deadline last July, and while he brought the professional qualities they needed to help them make a late run to earn a playoff spot, it took a while for him to mesh in the lineup.
It was assumed the Yankees would bring him back, but they did not sign him until after the lockout was completed in mid-March, and they signed him to a two-year, $32 million contract. They also showed tremendous faith in Rizzo by trading Luke Voit, who manned first base for the Yankees since he came over in a trade deadline deal with St. Louis in 2018.
That faith has been rewarded immediately in the Yankees' first two games of the season, wins over the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
In the opener on Friday afternoon, after Boston put up three runs in the top of the first against Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, Rizzo launched a two-run bomb off Boston starter Nathan Eovaldi to get the Yankees right back into it, on their way to a 6-5 win in 11 innings.
On Saturday, the Yankees found themselves trailing early again after Alex Verdugo hit a two-run home run in the second inning.
A couple innings later, Rizzo hit a two-run homer off Boston starter Nick Pavetta to tie in in the fourth, and the Yankees took the lead for good when Giancarlo Stanton got a two-run shot of his own off Pivetta in the sixth, and they held on for a 4-2 win.
Stanton also homered in Friday's win, making Rizzo and Stanton the first pair of Yankees teammates to homer in the Yankees' first two games of the season. They are just the ninth set of teammates to do it in the Modern Era of baseball history, with two instances of it occurring last season when Buster Posey and Evan Longoria of the San Francisco Giants, and Whit Merrifield and Michael A. Taylor of the Kansas City Royals did it.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone's decision to slip the left-handed Rizzo into the third spot in the lineup between the two big right-handed sluggers - Aaron Judge in the two spot, and Stanton hitting cleanup -has proven to be very significant.
This has forced Boston pitching to challenge Rizzo, who you couldn't ever take lightly, but he certainly has gotten better pitches than last season, when he would hit fifth or sixth, ahead of one of the Yankees' weakest 7-9 in their order in recent memory.
Rizzo has homered in the opening two games of the season for the first time in his career, and he is the 11th Yankee to accomplish the feat. It is the third straight year a Yankee has done it, as Stanton did it in 2020 and this season, and Gary Sanchez did it last year. Stanton is the second Yankee to homer in the first two games of a season twice, joining Lou Gehrig (1932 and '33) in that elite company.