Before a sold-out crowd of 31,042 Tampa area fans, the Yankees had their rather disappointing Opening Day game at the Rays’ home at Tropicana Field. Actually, it was a combination of things that didn’t really work for the Yankees this afternoon, mainly their starting pitching and complete lack of offense from all but 2 of the hitters in the lineup. Add in the Rays’ stellar starter and the fact that the Rays typically do really well in April, it wasn’t going to go the Yankees’ way today.
Things started poorly for the Yankees right off the top. With Bird on 1st with a walk, Matt Holliday hit a dribbling grounder in the infield and the Rays’ defense made the play at 1st. The umpire called it out, but Girardi called for a replay because it really appeared that Holliday got there a hair before the ball was caught. So they went to the headphones, and while the entire population clearly viewed the play had Holliday safe, the call was oddly upheld. Apparently, they were having “technical difficulties”, so the compromise was that both teams could ask for unlimited reviews.
This didn’t help set the tone for the Yankees’ starter Masahiro Tanaka. And let’s just say that I’m sure Tanaka would want a do-over. He threw 67 pitches into the 3rd inning, and though 41 of those were strikes, he gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 7 runs, striking out just 3 Rays’ batters. In the 1st, he quickly gave up a single and double to put runners in scoring position. A sacrifice fly scored the Rays’ first run of the day. A single and walk loaded up the bases, so that a single then scored 2 more runs before he finally got the last 2 outs of the inning.
Tanaka came back out in the 2nd to get 2 outs quickly before getting another baserunner with a walk. But then he gave up the first home run of the season, a 2-run homer straight out to the left field seats to further the Rays’ lead. In the 3rd, he gave up another home run, a 1-out solo shot to center field. Then a double ended up scoring on a bunt single thanks to a sloppy throwing error. After one more out, the reliever was ready, and Tanaka’s time was done for the day.
Tommy Layne closed out the 3rd before breezing through most of the 4th inning. Adam Warren gave some long relief, closing out the 4th and then pitching through the 6th inning. Jonathan Holder gave up a couple of hits in the 7th, but got it under control and shut out the Rays in the end. Chasen Shreve made the 8th inning more interesting and dramatic by eventually loading up the bases with 2 outs before working a great timely strike out to get out of his own trouble.
The Yankees bullpen combined for just over 5 innings pitched, 5 allowed hits, no runs, and 7 strikeouts. In other words, the Yankees actually had a pretty good game once Tanaka was done. (And those are words I don’t think I ever thought I’d say, and hope not to say again.)
And as far as the Yankees’ offense, it was certainly limited. And this was partly due to the fact that the Rays’ starter is one of the best pitchers in the AL East, let alone the entire AL. He threw 108 pitches over his 7 innings, the most for a Rays’ starter since 2001 (which was 113 pitches) and really kept the Yankees limited. He still managed to give up 7 hits and a walk, but certainly limited the runs scored thanks to the opportunites the Yankees’ batters just weren’t taking.
In the 2nd, Starlin Castro hit a 1-out single. And thanks to the unlimited challenges, the Rays took up their offer (the only time they would all afternoon, actually) and wanted to double check the call. And as turnabout is fairplay, the call was upheld. (Though to be perfectly fair, Castro was obviously safe.) Chase Headley then singled himself to get on base. Aaron Judge hit a nice double to score Castro to get the Yankees on the board, also moving Headley to 3rd. Ronald Torreyes hit into a ground out but scored Headley.
The Yankees were very effectively shut out following Judge’s double for much of the Rays’ starter’s outing. The first reliever followed suit and kept the Yankees at bay. But in the 9th inning, the Yankees found a chance to rally. Headley singled, Judge reached on a force attempt and fielding error, and Hicks singled to load the bases. With no outs recorded, the Rays’ went to a new reliever. Pinch-hitter Chris Carter hit a sacrifice fly to score Headley, but then 2 more outs closed out the Yankees’ chance at a rally.
Final score: 7-3 Rays.
In reflection on tonight, the keys to the Yankee offense were easily Starlin Castro and Chase Headley. Each player went 3-for-4, combining for 6 (of the 9 total hits) and scoring all the Yankee runs today. And while both players are currently batting .750, we all know that won’t last long.
I think there’s something justified in the fact that it was Headley and Castro to lead in the offense today because there tends to be a sentiment among certain fans that they aren’t “good enough” sometimes, focusing instead of the young power-hitting stars as the main sources for offense. So, while the rest of the roster today combined to get 3 hits, a walk, and no runs, the two infielders certainly made their marks on the 2017 season.
Now, Tanaka’s outing was the talk of much of the internet. And I think the reason is because it’s unexpected. I mean, Tanaka does lose games, but he doesn’t usually lose them so spectacularly. He and Sabathia have combined their Opening Day starts into an ERA of 8.20 over the last 9 Opening Days. (Tanaka’s 3 Opening Days have him with a current Opening Day ERA of 9.49.) Tanaka’s 7 runs allowed are the most allowed by a Yankees’ Opening Day starter since Rogers Clemens’ 8 runs in 2002.
And if you’re wondering about this continued losing streak of Opening Days, the Yankees have lost the last 6 Opening Days. The last time they won an Opening Day was March 31, 2011 against Detroit.
The only good thing you can really cobble together after today’s game is pretty simple. There’s no way the Rays are going 162-0 and the Yankees 0-162. Like I said, the Rays tend to do pretty well in April, and clearly the Yankees struggle on Opening Days. You win some, you lose some.
At least it wasn’t in the Bronx this time.