MLB Opening Day 2024: Juan Soto sparks Yankees from 4-0 hole, secures win over Astros with 9th-inning defensive heroics

Juan Soto had a tremendous debut for the New York Yankees on Thursday.

The newly acquired slugger sparked a rally from a 4-0 hole against the Houston Astros, then secured a 5-4 Opening Day win with an outfield assist on a play at the plate in the ninth inning.

Houston trailed 5-4 with two men on and one out in the bottom of the inning. Kyle Tucker hit the ball to right field, and Mauricio Dubón rounded third for home. But Soto fielded the ball and threw a strike to catcher Jose Trevino, who tagged Dubón out at home.

Officials reviewed the play and confirmed the call on the field: Dubón was out. Alex Bregman then grounded into a fielder's choice to secure the 5-4 Yankees win that had looked unlikely after Houston jumped to a 4-0 lead.

Houston takes early control

The Astros jumped on Yankees starter Nestor Cortes with a three-run first inning. Houston loaded the bases, and Chas McCormick struck first with a two-run single. A Yainer Díaz RBI single secured the 3-0 lead that Houston extended to 4-0 in the second.

Valdez, meanwhile, cruised through four scoreless innings before the Yankees bats came alive in the fifth. Soto picked up his first RBI with the Yankees on a bases-loaded single to cut Houston's lead to 4-1.

Valdez then hit Anthony Rizzo with a pitch to score another run, then walked Anthony Volpe for a third.

The Astros pulled Valdez with two outs remaining in the fourth and Houston leading 4-3. The Yankees went on to tie the game on an Oswaldo Cabrera home run in the sixth.

New York then loaded the bases in the seventh inning against reliever Ryan Pressly, and Aaron Judge came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Alex Verdugo with one out to take a 5-4 lead. It was the only run the Yankees would score with the bases loaded. But it was enough, thanks to Soto's defensive heroics in the ninth.

Big debut from Soto

Soto joined the Yankees with high expectations this offseason via a trade from the San Diego Padres. The perennial MVP candidate finished his debut 1-for-3 at the plate with two walks and an RBI, plus the play of the game on defense.

It was a rough day for both pitching staffs, as every starter from each team reached base at least once. Cortes, starting in place of sidelined ace Gerrit Cole, allowed five hits, two walks and four earned runs in five innings. Valdez allowed five hits, six walks and three earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. In total, nine Yankees batters reached on walks.

The Yankees and Astros meet again Friday for the second game of a four-game series between the AL favorites.