Wynegar Homers as Yankees Win, 4-2
A couple of difficult off-season decisions turned out favorably for the New York Yankees Tuesday and helped them post their first opening-day victory in five years.
A front office decision to re-sign catcher Butch Wynegar and another decision to keep left-handed reliever Rod Scurry proved to be instrumental in the Yankees’ 4-2 victory over the world champion Kansas City Royals before a Yankee Stadium crowd of 55,260.
Wynegar, who came very close to leaving the Yankees last winter, hit a three-run homer to back Ron Guidry’s first opening-day victory and Scurry turned in 2 innings of one-hit middle relief to help Piniella get off to a successful start.
“Lou never told me that I was the No. 1 catcher,” said Wynegar. “He told the press. But it didn’t matter. I already had my mind made up. I was going to play. There were three reasons I decided to come back. It was a great bunch of guys, we had a chance to win and I didn’t want to leave New York after last year (when he hit .223).”
Piniella and the Yankee high command also had a difficult decision deciding on the future of Scurry. Acquired by the Yankees at the end of last season, he showed only brief flashes of his talents and had to fight his way onto the club during spring training. Possessor of one of baseball’s best curveballs, he showed how valuable he can be as a middle reliever by stopping the Royals on just one hit before giving way to Dave Righetti, who went the final 1 innings for the save.
Piniella expressed relief that the Yankees had won their Opening Day game. He received three calls of congratulation, one from his predecessor Billy Martin, one from team executive Woody Woodward and one from team owner George Steinbrenner.
Of the team owner, Piniella said, “he said ‘you’ve got the first one out of the way.”’
Kansas City manager Dick Howser cited Wynegar’s home run as the difference in the game.
“They had a three-run homer and we didn’t hit late,” said Howser. “That was the difference. When the game turns on one swing of the bat, it’s a good game. I don’t care whether it’s in the second inning or the ninth.”
Wynegar hit a 3-2 pitch from starter Bud Black into the left field stands to spoil the Royals’ first game since they won the World Series last October.
Black opened the second inning by walking Dave Winfield. Two outs later, Dale Berra scratched a single to center and Wynegar followed with his homer.
Kansas City scored twice in the fourth when George Brett walked and McRae hit a 2-0 pitch into the right field stands.
The Yankees added an insurance run in the fifth when Bobby Meacham singled, stole second and scored on a looping single by Willie Randolph.
Guidry worked five innings for the victory, striking out five, and allowing only a two-run homer by Hal McRae.
Guidry left with a strained left calf but the injury is not believed to be serious. Despite being the ace of the Yankee staff, Guidry had never collected a victory in six previous opening-day assignments.
The Yankees had not won an opener since 1981, when they beat the Texas Rangers, 10-3.
The Royals loaded the bases in the ninth on a single by Frank White, an error by shortstop Meacham and a single by Jim Sundberg, but Righetti escaped the jam by striking out pinch hitter Greg Pryor and Lonnie Smith to end the game.