The Ace & The Outfield Trio…
Yankees 6, Rays 1…
Masahiro Tanaka was dealing on Friday night as the Yankees took down the Tampa Rays for the second night in a row. He was backed by homers from all three starting outfielders and amassed 14 strikeouts over 8 innings before David Robertson capped off his brilliant game. The win vaulted the Yankees back into first place in the AL East.
The first inning showed that Tanaka was potentially on top of his game when he struck out the side. Brett Gardner, Thursday night’s hero with the walk-off home run, started the scoring for the Yankees with a home run. He became only the third Yankee with walk-off/walk-on home runs, joining Joe Gordon (1940) and Roberto Kelly (1990). Gardy’s homer, his 19th of the year (a career high), landed in the bullpen in right field under the Toyota sign. Rays right-fielder Stephen Souza, Jr climbed the wall with thoughts of making a spectacular catch but the ball was just beyond his reach. It was an interesting stat coming into the game that the Yankees are 15–0 when Gardy goes yard. We can make that 16–0.
After Rays starter Austin Pruitt gave up the lead-off HR to Gardy, he proceeded to strike out the side so it looked like we would be settling into a pitcher’s duel. Tanaka picked up two more strikeouts in each of the second and third innings, before striking out only one in the 4th. In the bottom of the 4th, the Yankees picked up their second run when Aaron Judge hammered a Pruitt pitch to left for his 33rd home run of the season.
After Tanaka set the Rays down in order in the top of the 5th, picking up another K, the Yankees added to their lead. Pruitt alternated strikeouts and walks with Chase Headley (out), Todd Frazier (walk), Ronald Torreyes (out), and Brett Gardner (walk). After a coaching visit to the mound by Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, Clint Frazier completed the outfield trifecta with a monster blast to left center, traveling 455 feet into the left field stands. Red Thunder continues to amaze with his blazing bat speed. I know that I am one of many who feel the Yankees would be very foolish to send Frazier back down to Triple A when Aaron Hicks returns. The team’s resurgence this month has been driven, in large part, by Red Thunder’s energy and heart.
Leading 5–0, Tanaka took a perfect game into the 6th inning but it was spoiled with two outs when Adeiny Hechavarria hit a grounder past a diving Didi Gregorius for the Rays first hit. In the 7th inning, the Rays marred the shutout when they got their only other hit, a homer to right by former New York Met Lucas Duda. 5–1, Yankees.
Tanaka completed the eighth inning exactly as he started the first by striking out the side. It was the end of the night for Tanaka but what a game! If he continues to pitch like this down the stretch, it will mean great things for the Yankees.
The Yankees picked up their final run in the 8th inning. After Rays reliever (and former Yankee) Chase Whitley shut down the Yankees for two innings, setting down all six batters he faced in the 6th and 7th innings, the Rays brought in Adam Kolarek to start the 8th. He hit Brett Gardner with a pitch to put Gardy at first. He struck out Clint Frazier and induced Aaron Judge to hit into a ground out which moved Gardy to second. Kolarek intentionally walked Gary Sanchez, but a passed ball advanced both runners to second and third. Didi Gregorius singled to left, scoring Gardner but Gary Sanchez was nailed at the plate as he attempted to score too.
David Robertson finished up the 9th with his usual “no drama”. Just another day at the office for D-Rob, and the Yankees emerged with their 55th victory of the season. Boo yeah! Yankees win!
As mentioned at the top of this post, the Yankees (55–46) moved into first place in the division standings. The Boston Red Sox, who had received disappointing news earlier in the day with the placement of David Price on the DL, fell to the Kansas City Royals, 4–2. It was the Royals’ ninth consecutive victory. The Red Sox now trail the Yanks by a half game, while the Rays are 3 1/2 back.
Aaron Judge visited the dentist earlier in the day to temporarily repair his chipped tooth. He’ll have to make a trip back for permanent work but it was very good to see Judge back out on the field. I liked the YES Network’s reference to “Babe Tooth”…
A last note about Masahiro Tanaka. His masterpiece against the Rays follows largely horrific performances on the road against them. In two games at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, FL, Tanaka was 0–2 with 20.67 ERA. Tanaka improved his record to 8–9 and ERA to 5.09 with the victory. Simply an excellent game by the right-hander.
Odds & Ends…
Robert Refsnyder is expected to return to the Major Leagues today for the Toronto Blue Jays. The utility man would take the place of Troy Tulowitzki who sprained his right ankle and will undergo further tests. The thought is that Ref could play some second base while Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney cover short during Tulo’s absence. All the best to Ref as he tries to make his mark north of the border.
The division foes are being very active on the trade market this week. The Rays have been the loudest with their acquisitions of Lucas Duda, Dan Jennings, Sergio Romo and Steve Cishek. The Baltimore Orioles, only 7 1/2 games back, acquired Philadelphia Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson overnight. With David Price going on the DL, it will be interesting to see if the Boston Red Sox make any further moves after their acquisition of former Yankees third baseman/infielder Eduardo Nunez. The Red Sox “say” they are not going to chase down another starter but that remains to be seen.
It was incredible game for outfielder Billy McKinney yesterday as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders crushed the Charlotte Knights, 15–8. McKinney was 4-for-5 with a double, two triples and a grand slam and a career high 6 RBI’s. His outfield throw also nailed a runner at home plate in the third inning. Miguel Andujar, making a statement that he wants to be the Yankees third baseman in 2018, was 2-for-6 with a homer and has raised his batting average to .324 as he continues to feast on Triple A pitching.
Have a great Saturday! Here’s hoping the Yankees can continue their success against the Rays. Go Yankees!