Game 1 Recap: Yankees fall to Rays, 7-3

Not again!

Another year, another loss in the first game of the season. Today’s 7-3 defeat to the Rays was the Yankees’ sixth straight loss on Opening Day. The last victory was against the Tigers back in 2011.

Aside from a couple of runs in the second, the Yankees offense couldn’t get much going against Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer. On the other hand, Masahiro Tanaka had next to nothing and was unable to make it through the third inning. Here are some of the key details of today’s game:

Not Tanaka’s day

Masahiro Tanaka allowed a single, double, and a sac fly against the first three batters of the game, quickly putting the Yankees behind 1-0. What could have been the second out of the inning was a mishandled sharp grounder to Greg Bird (scored a hit). From there, Tanaka walked Steven Souza to load the bases. Logan Morrison made Tanaka pay, delivering a 2-run single to put the Rays up 3-0. Tanaka escaped further trouble in the opening frame, but it was an ominous start.

After retiring the first two batters of the second, it appeared that Tanaka was back on track. Perhaps some opening day nerves hindered his command in the first? Not so fast. Tanaka issued a two out walk to Kevin Kiermaier to bring Evan Longoria to the dish, who subsequently hit a two-run bomb to make it 5-2 Rays.

There was no improvement in the third inning. After a Logan Morrison solo shot to make it 6-2, Tim Beckham doubled. The next batter, Mallex Smith, reached on a bunt that Gary Sanchez threw out of the reach of Greg Bird, allowing Beckham to score. Tanaka was lifted after retiring the next batter, Derek Norris.

After allowing only one run in all of Grapefruit League play, Tanaka surrendered a career high seven earned runs this afternoon. Hey, it happens to the best of them. It was pretty clear that Tanaka simply couldn’t locate his pitches with the precision we’re accustomed to. No reason to freak out about it after one game.

Two runs in the second and missed opportunity in the seventh

Last season, it felt like Aaron Judge was overly passive and fell behind in the count often. In his first at-bat of the season, he pounced on the first pitch he saw. It was a hanging breaking ball that Judge pounded down the left field line for a run scoring double. A batter later, Ronald Torreyes delivered another run on a groundout.

After the second inning, Archer cruised until the seventh. He retired 13 of 14 batters faced after the Judge double, but ran into trouble when the seventh inning came around. Castro and Headley opened the frame with back-to-back singles (Headley’s a bunt against the shift). Archer managed to strike out Judge and retired pinch hitter Aaron Hicks (for Ronald Torreyes) on a fly ball to right. It seemed like Rays’ manager Kevin Cash would bring in southpaw Xavier Cedeno to face Brett Gardner, but he left his ace in. Gardner singled to left, loading the bases, and Cash stuck with Archer for Sanchez. A Sanchez blooper sliced just foul early in the at-bat that would have cut the Rays lead to 7-4 or 7-5, which was a tough break. Eventually, Sanchez grounded out to short to end the inning and the threat.

One last gasp

In the ninth, Headley got his third hit (all to the third base side against the shift) to lead off the inning. Judge reached on a rare Longoria error and Aaron Hicks subsequently loaded the bases with a hit to left (Hicks took over for Gardner after pinch hitting). In came Rays closer Alex Colome, and up came pinch hitter Chris Carter (for Pete Kozma, who took over shortstop for Torreyes). Carter drove in a run on a sacrifice fly, but that was all the Yankees would get. Sanchez and Bird were finished off to end the game on a strikeout and fly out, respectively.

Parting Notes

In the first inning, Matt Holliday appeared to beat out a tapper to the second baseman Brad Miller, but first base umpire Marvin Hudson called Holliday out. Replays appeared to show the Yankees’ DH beating the throw, but the call wasn’t overturned. It would have brought Jacoby Ellsbury up to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second, but alas.

The starters in the one through five spots reached base thrice in 22 opportunities: a single (Gardner), a walk (Bird), and a hit by pitch (Ellsbury). Hard to score runs when that happens. Speaking of Ellsbury, the fifth spot in the order is his new placement (for now).

One positive to take from this afternoon: the bullpen. After Tanaka exited in the second, Tommy Layne, Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder, and Chasen Shreve combined to fire 5.1 shutout innings. Shreve was a tad shaky, but did escape without allowing a run in the eighth. Often times, dipping into the bullpen so early in a game in the first week of the season results in a new reliever up from the Scranton shuttle, but with the day off tomorrow, I don’t think we’ll see that.

Here are links to the box score and WPA graph for this afternoon’s loss.

Next game

The Yankees (0-1) are off tomorrow but face the Rays (1-0) again on Tuesday at 7:10pm. CC Sabathia will take the mound against Jake Odorizzi.