April 1 (UPI) -- The Toronto Blue Jays opened the 2021 MLB season with a 3-2 win over the New York Yankees in extra innings Thursday as fans returned to Yankee Stadium for the first time since October 2019.
Randal Grichuk led off the 10th with an RBI double to push the Blue Jays in front. Toronto reliever Julian Merryweather then struck out the side on 11 pitches in the bottom half to secure the victory.
"It was definitely weird," Merryweather said of fans being in attendance. "I asked a few people, 'What are all these people doing here? Who are these people?' But it was great to have fans again. ... The moment itself, being in Yankee Stadium, was pretty surreal. That's like Little League dreams right there."
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fans hadn't been at Yankee Stadium since the Yankees' loss to the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Oct. 18, 2019, a span of 532 days.
Those in attendance for Thursday's opener had to show proof of complete vaccination at least two weeks earlier or a recent negative COVID-19 test. Masks were required at the park, and groups were separated by empty seats into pods.
Attendance for the Yankees' first extra-innings opener since 1987 was announced as 10,850.
"Obviously it didn't end the way you want to where you're shaking hands, but it definitely was special having a crowd back," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "Even though we're 20% capacity, you could feel their energy and feel them waiting to erupt."
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. gave the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead in the second inning with an RBI single to shallow center. In the bottom half, Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez responded with a towering two-run homer to make it 2-1.
Teoscar Hernandez tied the score in the sixth with a 437-foot home run on a hanging slider from Yankees ace Gerrit Cole. Grichuk then clinched the 3-2 win with his RBI double in the 10th.
Cole allowed two runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He recorded eight strikeouts and two walks.
Blue Jays starter Hyun-Jin Ryu gave up two runs on four hits over 5 1/3 innings, notching five strikeouts and one walk.
The three-game series resumes Saturday afternoon. Former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber is expected to take the mound for New York, while the Blue Jays will send out Ross Stripling.