The big draw in last night's 2-game series opener against the Nationals was the starting pitching matchup. Max Scherzer vs. Masahiro Tanaka is one of the best possible pitching matchups in baseball today and those 2 didn't disappoint. The defense and relief work of Washington did in the late innings, however, and the Yankees capitalized to run their winning streak to 7.
So that Scherzer-Tanaka matchup. It definitely lived up to its billing through the first 6 innings. Tanaka retired the Nats in order over the first 3 innings, recording 7 of the 9 outs by way of strikeout or groundout. He was running his fastball into the mid-90s, his sinker had good movement down in the zone, and the slider and splitter were on point as swing-and-miss pitches. Scherzer wasn't quite as dominant. His only clean inning was the bottom of the 1st. But he did get 7 swinging strikeouts over 6 and made some big pitches to get key groundouts with men on to kill potential 2-out rallies.
The only run Tanaka gave up came in the top of the 4th when he let a fastball get too much of the plate facing Bryce Harper. Harper smacked it for his 20th home run of the season to center field and the only run Washington would get. That homer came a half-inning after Scherzer made his 1 big mistake against Stephen Drew in the 3rd. Drew went down 0-2 in the at-bat, then worked the count back to even before fouling off a 2-2 fastball. He got another one on the next pitch and didn't miss it, lining a solo shot into right to give the Yankees a brief lead.
They'd regain the lead for good in the bottom of the 7th thanks to an Ian Desmond brain fart. With 2 on and 2 out, Alex Rodriguez lined a hotshot to short that Desmond nabbed diving to his right. He had plenty of time to get up and get the final out of the inning at first base. It ain't like A-Rod is setting any world speed records getting down the line these days. Instead Desmond chose to get the force at third and his throw hit Ramon Flores as he slid in and got away from the third baseman. This allowed the go-ahead run to score, allowed the inning to continue, and most importantly ended the game for Scherzer.
Matt Thornton came out of the National 'pen and intentionally walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases and bring up Brian McCann. McCann has been hot lately and he came through big with a line drive base hit down the right field line to score 2. Carlos Beltran followed up with a ribbie single of his own to score Teix and the lead was 5-1. You can see how huge that Desmond play ended up being. From a sure out to end the inning to 4 crushing runs on the NY side of the scoreboard.
Tanaka was done after 7 strong and Dellin Betances worked a 1-2-3 8th. Drew, the undeniable power threat that he is, provided an extra bit of insurance with his second home run of the night in the bottom half, and Joe elected to let Chasen Shreve handle the 9th. Shreve got 2 outs and put 2 men on, the second coming by way of 2-out walk, and that was enough to make Joe nervous I guess. He yanked Shreve and went to Andrew Miller and Miller got the final out on 4 pitches. Whew!!
- 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 87 pitches, 63 strikes, 13 whiffs, 10 GB outs. Just Tanaka doing Tanaka things. He's allowed 3 ER in 27.1 IP with 29 K/2 BB over his last 4 starts, which includes that big chunk of time he missed. Incredible.
- Can we start saying some nice things about Stephen Drew now? He's got 7 hits and 6 RBI in the 7 games since his little weekend benching at the end of May, and 4 of the hits have been homers. He's got 2 2-homer games in his last 4, is on pace to hit 25 this season right now, and his tripleslash is up to .175/.237/.373. That's progress.
- Give the Yankee lineup credit, they worked Scherzer hard. He threw 116 pitches and didn't get through the 7th. That was big.
- 3-4 night at the dish for McCann, who's up to .266/.330/.485 on the year. 2-hit night for Beltran too.
- And don't sleep on Ramon Flores and his 3-hit night. Between he and Drew, the 8-9 spots in the order were cooking last night.
- Talk about a brutal case of over-managing by Joe in the 9th. I mean, has he not been watching the games in which Shreve has pitched lately? Has he forgotten about those situations just like that? So he walked a guy and put another baserunner on, big deal. The tying run wasn't even at the plate! Give the guy a chance to get the next batter before panicking and going to your closer. Just completely unnecessary by Joe and a waste of Miller's time.