We can’t blame bad strategy for that one. The Yankees simply got outplayed (again) by the Rays in a huge game and lost 8-4. They are down 2 games to 1 in the ALDS and, frankly, they deserve to be. The series is not over yet, though. There is a game tomorrow and the Yankees will have to win it. If they are going to do that, they will have to play better than they did tonight from top to bottom.
So, with that out of the way, let’s get right to the takeaways.
1. Tanaka’s Potential Swan Song, Not So Good: I really hope that wasn’t it for Masahiro Tanaka in pinstripes. People have very short memories and were declaring in our mentions that they’ve Had Enough of Masahiro Tanaka. This is silly. He is very good, and the Yankees should bring him back. That said, he was not very good tonight. This about says it all, really:
There are three bad things about this chart. First, there is way, way too much over the heart of the zone. Second, there are way, way too many yellow (slider) and aqua (curveball) dots up and over the heart of the plate. Third, there are not nearly enough gray (splitter) dots low and below the zone. You don’t want to be reductionist or overly simplistic, but that formula is almost never going to work out.
The Rays put 15 balls in play against Tanaka and 7 of those could be considered “hard hit”, aka harder than 95 mph. This about tells the story of the night:
That was one of the good outcomes! Tanaka just didn’t have it. Here was the first run of the game, which came in the 2nd inning:
Perez, if you are curious, is a career .221/.286/.314 (67 wRC+) hitter with a 28% strikeout rate in 230 career plate appearances. He was batting 9th for the Rays tonight. Annoying! Anyway, the other big blow against Tanaka was also extremely annoying, but for different reasons.
It came in the 4th inning, which Joey Wendle led off with a walk. Tanaka was very concerned with Wendle stealing, kept throwing over, and ultimately ended up in a full count against Willy Adames. He threw said pitch in this location:
Which, as you can see, was called a ball. For context, here is the whole at-bat:
This would be bad enough, but making matters worse is the fact that Wendle indeed steal second on the pitch…and was caught dead to rights on Higgy’s throw. It would have been a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play, or, put another way, exactly what the doctor ordered. Instead, it put men on first and second with nobody out. Here is the very next pitch:
That is a back-breaking home run for Kiermaier regardless of the previous pitch. It is even worse in context. Last night’s umpiring display from CB Bucknor was a disgrace, and so to was this. That is just inexcusable, and it is a 2-run swing at least. At the very least. It should not have happened. Now, lest you think I am solely going to blame the umpiring here, this is what Tanaka threw Keirmaier:
Awful, awful stuff. It really is. I was and continue to be extremely mad about the non-strike call to Adames. That can’t happen. But neither can that pitch in that spot. For those keeping track at home, the 8th and 9th hitter were responsible for the first 4 runs off Tanaka. In the words of an old friend, it is not what you want.
Tanaka did settle down and escaped the 4th without further incident. The first batter of the 5th – Randy Arozerena, because of course – absolutely obliterated a hanging slider into the left-field seats to end Tanaka’s night. He lasted 4+ innings, gave up 5 runs on 8 hits (2 HR), walked 1, and struck out 4. It was an ugly performance from Tanaka in a game in which the Yankees really needed him to step up.
2. Charlie Morton, Yankee Playoff Slayer: Charlie Morton? Vaporizing a deadly Yankee lineup in a huge playoff game? Have I seen this before? This wasn’t quite as bad as Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS for a few reasons, but it was pretty damn close. The Yankees could not touch Morton. Look at his pitch type and location here:
He attacked the zone with his fastball and dared the Yankees to hit it. They did not hit it. He had more velocity tonight than he had all year – he’s clearly recovered from that injury – and came out firing. I think the Yankees expected him to feature his curve more, as usual, but even that he threw for strikes. He was not messing around. He mowed through the first 7 Yankees without even breaking a sweat.
Morton Killer™ Brett Gardner broke the malaise in the 3rd inning with a one-out hit before Kyle Higashioka reached on an error. A DJ LeMahieu walk and the Yankees were in business with the bases loaded and one out with Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Luke Voit due up. Judge, who has been non-existent virtually all postseason, eeked out a fly ball for a sac fly. That knotted the game at 1 before Aaron Hicks walked. Again, the Yankees loaded the bases.
This is all important. Morton had walked 2 of the previous 3 batters and worked himself into a 3-0 count against Voit. Here is the pitch chart after that:
Instead of walking – let alone the 4th pitch here, which was in the same location as the Tanaka called-ball in the next frame – Voit grounded out. A huge swing. Again, I am not going to blame the umpires. The Yankees didn’t deliver and they should have. But it’s worth bringing up, at least.
3. Hey, At Least the Bullpen is Rested: On the bright side, the Yankees avoided having to use their good relievers again. Except for Chad Green, who inexplicably gave up a HR to Michael Perez, that is. Here are the lines from the relievers the Yankees did use:
- Chad Green: 1+ IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 K, 0 BB
- Luis Cessa: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
- Nick Nelson: 1 IP, 1 H, zeros
- Michael King: 2.0 IP, zeros, 1 K
There is not a whole lot to say here, really. Green needs to be better, but I liked Boone going to him when he did. It was the right move that just didn’t work. Everyone else was good enough. That’s the best I’ve got right now.
- Giancarlo Stanton is So Good: Hopefully, this series will put to bed the idea that Giancarlo Stanton sucks. Reader, he does not. I suspect it won’t – Yankee fans need their villain – but he really is so good. In fact, Giancarlo has singlehandedly kept the Yankees in both Games 2 and 3 of this series. He added another home run tonight to become the first player in MLB history to hit a HR in his team’s first 5 playoff games.
- Aaron Hicks is Also Good: I remain super impressed with Aaron Hicks. Every at-bat the guy has is good these days. Hicks went 1-3 with a walk tonight and I am pretty sure he has been on base twice in every single playoff game so far. His power may be gone but his talent is not.
- Everyone Else Looks Bad: Virtually everyone else in the lineup has disappeared over the last two nights. I am not so forgetful. I know that the team was just rolling on all cylinders [checks notes] two days ago, but they need everyone else to wake up again. Luke Voit and Aaron Judge, in particular, haven’t looked so great.
- Please Get the Bottom of the Order Out: Tomorrow night the Yankees should try getting the bottom of the Rays lineup out. Tonight, they let the 8 and 9 hitters (Michael Perez and Kevin Keirmaeir) go 3-8 with 2 HR and 6 RBI against them. That is inexcusable stuff and it cost the Yankees the game.
The Yankees try to save their season tomorrow night at 7:10 pm ET against Tampa. They’re the home team again. They will start Jordan Montgomery with their season on the line. Here’s hoping he channels his best Andy Pettitte impression.
Enjoy the rest of your night, everyone. On the bright side, it probably won’t get much worse.