The New York Yankees defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 3-1 in their series-opening contest on Monday night. Though ace Gerrit Cole delivered a quality start, striking out eight and allowing one run on three hits and a walk over six innings, the game's most notable performer turned out to be his catcher, Kyle Higashioka. Higashioka, in what was his second start of the season, went 2 for 3 with two home runs and three RBI.
He even made some history in the process, becoming the first catcher in Major League Baseball history with three multihomer games within his first dozen career home runs, according to STATS.
Obviously that's an arbitrary and largely meaningful piece of trivia … to which we say, here's another: Higashioka also homered three times against the Blue Jays last September, meaning that five of his 12 career home runs have come against Toronto.
Higashioka, 31, has now appeared in parts of five big-league seasons. He's a career .192/.230/.389 hitter (64 OPS+) who is employed more so for his defensive efforts than his offensive ability. Indeed, Higashioka has become a figure of interest on the current iteration of the Yankees because of his role as Cole's personal catcher.
Prior to Gary Sanchez's Opening Day start, Higashioka had received the nod for four Cole starts in a row in the regular season, and seven overall including the postseason. Factor in Monday's game and the playoffs, and Higashioka has started nine of Cole's past 10 starts and nine of his 18 overall as a member of the Yankees.
Even so, manager Aaron Boone claimed earlier in the week that he won't stick by a rigid personal catcher arrangement between Cole and Higashiokia. "I'll pair them up I'm sure a fair amount," Boone said, per Brendan Kuty of NJ Advanced Media. "But I also felt like, especially going back to Opening Day, I felt like Gary and Gerrit were really good together. I'm comfortable with both guys."