HOUSTON — New Yankees superstar Juan Soto seemed relaxed and happy before his debut in what is usually a house of horrors for his new team. If Soto knew anything about the recent pinstriped history here, he wasn’t letting on.

Soto also wasn’t hiding his excitement for his new beginning with his third major league franchise at age 25. That’s an unusual winding route for a young wunderkind. But he knows this isn’t just any franchise, and he seems happy to be part of the history now.

“This is going to be great. This is going to be fun. This is going to be amazing,” Soto told The Post a couple hours before his first game in pinstripes.

If there were jitters, he wasn’t showing them before — or certainly during — the game, which turned into a rousing Opening Day success in a 5-4 Yankees victory Thursday over their nemesis Astros after a rough beginning. Soto had a typical offensive performance for him, then put on a beautiful defensive punctuation mark in Game 1 of what the Yankees hope will become a long and storied career in New York following his fabulous start in Washington and San Diego.

In a script made for a star, Soto wound up saving the day, his first in pinstripes.

“That was a Yankee classic — Juan’s debut,” captain Aaron Judge said afterward. “It speaks volumes about the type of player he is and the type of presence he has.”

Juan Soto #22 of the New York Yankees reacts after he hits an RBI single during the fifth inning.
Juan Soto #22 of the New York Yankees reacts after he hits an RBI single during the fifth inning. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Soto walked twice — his calling card — in five plate appearances, and he singled home the Yankees’ first run in the early rally that turned the game from what looked like a potential Astros rout into one of the most satisfying victories they’ve had in a long while — maybe even since before the disastrous 2023 season.

There is a long way to go — in this season, and the Yankees hope in Soto’s career in pinstripes — but the 2024 campaign could not have begun with a more rewarding win over a more hated rival. They overcame a lot to get the job done, too, which makes it even sweeter.

They overcame the absence of ace Gerrit Cole, the game’s best pitcher, who’s out with elbow trouble. Cole said before the game he’s feeling good and hopes to be back around what’s often whispered as the target date for his return, June 1. But in the meantime, they need to depend on a makeshift rotation, with Nestor Cortes taking the lead role here on Opening Day.

They overcame their demons in this cruel abode, which has been the site of a lot of unhappiness over the past several years. The Houston fans were excited about the Astros’ quick 4-0 start, but the Yankees soon cut into the deficit, then pushed across single runs on a home run by Oswaldo Cabrera to tie it and a sacrifice fly by newcomer Alex Verdugo to give the Yankees the lead they would hold.

Most of all they overcame the Astros, who’ve dominated the American League like few teams — other than past Yankees clubs. Seven straight appearances in the ALCS is quite impressive. As we know by now, it all started in the tainted 2017 season, but there are six real winning seasons, sans trash cans, since.

If anyone was psyched out by the Astros, no one was letting on. Manager Aaron Boone was talking his usual positivity in the pregame press conference. And Soto was feeling good around his locker.

When it was pointed out that the locker given to him — a $30M player — contained a broken drawer, he just smiled. “It’s good luck,” he said.

Yankees right fielder Juan Soto (22) hits an RBI single during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros.
Yankees right fielder Juan Soto (22) hits an RBI single during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

I guess we’d find out over the next few hours.

“That was good luck, I told you,” he told me afterward.

Cortes, after his rough start, pitched wonderfully over his final three innings, and notably outlasted Astros star Framber Valdez, who himself was replacing a future Hall of Famer, the famed former Met Justin Verlander.

The Yankees knocked out Valdez in the fifth with that three-run rally in which Soto provided the first run with a line single to right field. But the biggest highlight from Soto came on that game-saving throw in the ninth inning when a beautiful one-hopped toss to catcher Jose Trevino nailed Mauricio Dubon at home plate.

Soto isn’t known for his defense. But he made the play of the day/night, setting up beautifully and getting Dubon for the second out on the Kyle Tucker hit to right.

“When I caught the ball, I couldn’t see him in my window, so I knew I had [expletive] time,” Soto said later.

The Yankees hope this is the start of something special.

Soto, up for the game from the start, was asked before it what he hoped most for the season, and immediately he said, “Win a World Series.”

Then he launched in what they had to do to make that possible, and it began right away.

“We can do it,” he said. “We just have to set the tone tonight and this week.”

In his masterful and memorable debut, Soto is the one who did just that.


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