First things first, Happy Opening Day Yankee family! In St. Petersburg this afternoon, the New York Yankees kicked off their 2017 season against the division rival Tampa Bay Rays. On the mound for New York this afternoon was staff ace Masahiro Tanaka, who was 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 2016. Tanaka surely could have used some of the 2016 magic, as he was hit hard early and often this afternoon. Tampa's ace Chris Archer (9-19, 4.02 ERA in 2016) was the polar opposite of Tanaka today, pitching deep into the ball game and leading his team to their first victory of 2017.
Tanaka found himself in trouble immediately in the bottom of the first. Corey Dickerson started the frame with a base hit to right, advancing to third on a double by centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier. The next batter Evan Longoria lofted a fly ball into right field that plated Dickerson from third on the sac fly, 1-0 Tampa. Trouble continued as the next batter Brad Miller reached base on a generous infield single, that probably should've been called an error on first baseman Greg Bird. Tanaka went on to load the bases by walking Stephen Souza Jr.. Logan Morrison then put two more runs on the board when he shot a ground ball up the middle of the diamond, extending their lead to 3-0. Tanaka was finally able to get out of it by striking out left fielder Malik Smith to end the frame.
The Yankees were quick to respond, striking for two runs in the top of the second. Starlin Castro got things going with an infield single to second baseman Brad Miller with one out. Chase Headley then lined a single to left, advancing Castro to second. And then the winner of the every day right field spot Aaron Judge came through as he smoked a double into the left field gap, scoring Castro and pulling the Yanks to within two. Ronald Torreyes followed with a ground out to short, scoring Headley from third and shrinking their deficit to just one.
But Tanaka's opening day jitters continued as he served up a two-run shot to Evan Longoria in the bottom of the second, pushing the Rays lead back out to three. The long ball for the Yankee killer Longo was the 33rd of his career against New York.
The Fish kept their foot on the gas pedal as they knocked Tanaka out of the ball game in just the bottom of the third. With one out, Tanaka coughed up a solo shot to Logan Morrison to extend Tampa's lead to 6-2. Tim Beckham doubled down the left-field line, scoring when Malik Smith laid down a perfect bunt that saw Gary Sanchez launch the throw to first base into right field, 7-2. After getting Derek Norris to fly out, Tanaka was pulled for left-hander Tommy Layne who came out to face the left handed Corey Dickerson. After having such a solid spring, Tanaka was miserable in his 2017 debut; departing with a rough final line of 2.2 innings pitched, allowing seven runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out three.
Contrastly, Chris Archer was really good today, ending his afternoon by getting Gary Sanchez to ground out with the bases-loaded in the seventh. Archer was lifted for Danny Farquhar to begin the eighth, departing with the final line of seven innings pitched, allowing two runs on seven hits with one walk and five punchouts.
One big positive to take away from this afternoon was the performance of the bullpen, especially Adam Warren. With Tanaka having to depart extremely early, a combination of Layne, Warren, Jonathan Holder and Chasen Shreve kept the Rays off the scoreboard throughout the rest of the game. Most notably, Adam Warren was perfect in his 2.1 innings of work as he retired all seven men he faced while striking out two.
The Bombers definitely didn't go quietly, as they loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the ninth, forcing manager Kevin Cash to call on his closure Alex Colome to close the door. Chris Carter was called on to pinch-hit for shortstop Pete Kazma and promptly hit a sacrifice fly to left that made the score 7-3 Tampa. Gary Sanchez then struck out, ending his day at 0-for-5 while stranding five runners on base. And then Greg Bird ended the game by flying out to center field, preserving the win for Archer and the Rays on opening day.
The Yankees have the day off tomorrow(even though we're starting the season in a dome and have no need for a scheduled rainout makeup day) and look to get in the win column on Tuesday against these same Rays, with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 PM/EST.