By Dan Martin
TORONTO — After a mostly gruesome end to 2017, Dellin Betances just wanted to get off to a good start Thursday.
Instead, Kevin Pillar drilled the first pitch of the season by Betances over the fence in center field.
It was just about the only thing that didn’t go right in the Yankees’ 6-1 Opening Day win over Toronto at Rogers Centre and Betances was more pleased by how he bounced back from the homer than he was disappointed that he gave it up.
“He ambushed the first pitch,” Betances said. “I was trying to groove one in there and I didn’t think he would swing. He put a good swing on that. The good thing was that I was able to slow myself down after that, where at times last year, I would speed things up. I was able to make pitches.”
Betances recovered to get the next three batters, but not without some help — and luck.
Tyler Wade, a defensive replacement at second because of his range, went far to his right to get to Aledmys Diaz’s grounder up the middle for the first out. Devon Travis followed by lacing one to first, but Neil Walker was able to snag it for the second out before Betances got Josh Donaldson to pop out in foul territory to end the eighth inning.
Betances was also aided by the fact the Yankees led 5-0 when he entered the game thanks to a powerful showing by the offense and 5 ²/₃ scoreless innings from Luis Severino and another 1 ¹/₃ from Chad Green.
The right-hander thought he was safe throwing a 95-mph fastball down the middle to Pillar, but he was wrong.
Betances gave up just three homers last season, but suffered through a brutal stretch in September that made him little more than an afterthought in the playoffs — especially after he walked the only two batters he faced against the Indians in Game 4 of the ALDS.
Betances sounded convinced the Pillar homer was just a hiccup.
“My plan is being consistent and attacking the strike zone,’’ Betances said. “Obviously, you don’t want to start the year with a first-pitch homer, but I didn’t think he would swing right away like that. … This year I’m doing a better job of breathing, taking my time and trusting my delivery. I put in a lot of work this year in the offseason and I felt really good in the spring. As long as I trust it and trust both my pitches, I think this year will be a success.”