Tanaka struggles as Yankees drop sixth consecutive Opening Day game

The day baseball fans have been waiting for since Anthony Rizzo gloved Kris Bryant’s throw in the World Series to end the Cubs’ historic championship drought, Opening Day is among us. The Yankees were allotted the first game of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays and were looking to illustrate to the baseball world that this team, with the youngest opening day lineup in over 25 years, was looking to contend and be competitive now rather than in the next year or two. Especially with the World Baseball Classic providing postseason-like baseball, baseball fans became anxious for games to start that actually counted. Yankees fans wish this game did not count as the Rays slugged seven runs off of their ace pitcher to secure the victory.
Photo Credit: Brian Blanco | Getty Images

The first inning as a whole left a sour taste in the Yankees’ mouths as Matt Holliday was arguably robbed of a hit by a questionable challenge, and Masahiro Tanaka did not immediately pick up where he left off from his dominant Spring Training. The Rays struck first in the bottom of the first inning for three runs after subsequent hits by Corey Dickerson and Kevin Kiermaier led to an Evan Longoria sacrifice fly. A shaky play by Greg Bird at first and a four pitch walk to Steven Souza Jr. set up a bases loaded situation for Logan Morrison who delivered with a two-run single up the middle to put the Yankees in a hole early 3-0. Tanaka had allowed four first inning runs all of last season.


The Yankees quickly answered back in the top half of the second as an infield single by Starlin Castro and an opposite field single by Chase Headley to beat the shift set-up baby bomber, Aaron Judge, who showed no opening day jitters as he laced a double into left field scoring Castro. Shortstop replacement Ronald Torreyes then grounded out to second base scoring Headley to cut the Yankee deficit to 3-2.


Tanaka seemed to be settling down in the bottom half of the second until he served up a two-run home run to the Rays’ home run leader Evan Longoria to shift the momentum back to the Rays. Logan Morrison followed up with a homerun in the third to put the Rays back on top 6-2. The inning got uglier as Gary Sanchez threw away a ball bunted by the speedy Mallex Smith to score Tim Beckham who previously doubled up the line. Joe Girardi had seen enough and pulled Tanaka after just under three innings of work. Despite CC Sabathia's infamous opening day struggles over the years, Tanaka allowed the most earned runs in an opening day start for the Yankees since 2002.


Chris Archer, after a first inning scare comeback ground ball ripped off the bat of Sanchez and a second inning hiccup, stifled Yankees hitters throughout the course of the game. The Yankees made things interesting in the 7th, where they loaded the bases for Gary Sanchez who Chris Archer got to ground out to shortstop on his 108th pitch of the day.


The Yankees once again threatened in the top of the ninth loading the bases against Rays rookie, Austin Pruitt, forcing Rays manager Kevin Cash to go to his closer, Alex Colome. Chris Carter made his Yankees debut recording a sacrifice fly to cut the Rays’ lead to four, but Colome shut the door resulting in the Yankees’ sixth straight opening day loss.


On a positive note the Yankee middle relievers were overall solid at keeping the deficit at five runs (5.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 7 K) and Chase Headley and Starlin Castro had three-hit games each. All three of Headley’s hits were against the shift. The Yankees offense could not come up with the big hit, however, and were kept very quiet outside of the second inning.


The Yankees are off tomorrow, but are back in action, Tuesday at 7:10 PM ET at the Trop. The Yankees will send veteran C.C Sabathia, who is known to struggle in his first start of the season, to the hill to try to even out the series at a game apiece and the Rays will trot out Jake Odorizzi attempting to clinch a series win.


Winning pitcher: Chris Archer (1-0, 2.57 ERA):  7.0 IP, 7  H, 2 R ( 2 ER), 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR
Losing pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka (0-1, 23.63 ERA): 2.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R (7 ER), 2 BB, 3 K, 2 HR
Save: Alex Colome (1)


Notables:
Starlin Castro: 3-4, R
Chase Headley 3-4, R
Aaron Judge: 1-4, 2B, RBI
Adam Warren:  2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 K
Kevin Kiermaier: 2-3, 2B, 2 R, SB, 2 BB
Evan Longoria: 2-4, 1 HR (1), 3 RBI
Logan Morrison: 3-4, 1 HR (1), 3 RBI, R

Article by: Ryan Thoms

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