That game was dumb and bad, as so many games against the Rays are at Tropicana Field. The Yanks had just 2 hits tonight en route to a 1-0 loss (box score) to the 2nd-place Rays. It was an infuriating game filled with missed opportunities and unforced errors for the Yankees. The good news is that they’re 9-4 and get to play again tomorrow to cleanse the palate. Thank god for that.
Let’s get to tonight’s takeaways.
1. Tanaka Time at the Trop: I absolutely love watching Masahiro Tanaka pitch. When that dude is on, he pitches with surgical precision. That’s exactly what he did tonight in his second start of the season, throwing 5 innings of 1-hit ball with no walks and 5 strikeouts. He threw 59 pitches and 44 of them (75%) went for strikes. I’m not sure he missed his location even once. Check it out:
All of the fastballs were located up in the zone. All of the splitters, sliders, and curveballs are at the bottom of the zone are just below it. There was absolutely nothing in the middle of the plate. He threw 12 splitters, 12 fastballs, and 11 sliders. He had a 35% whiff-per-swing on his splitter/slider combo, which is something you just love to see. That tends to happen when your slider looks like this:
All in all, it was a masterful performance from Tanaka, who continues a solid stretch of dominating the Rays. It’s a shame he was on a pitch count – remember, he really didn’t have a camp – because it felt like he would have kept this up all night. The non-Cole starters have struggled to give the Yankees length in 2020, but this was an encouraging start from Tanaka. He should help correct this problem once he is fully stretched out again. That’s the best thing I can say about tonight. (To be fair, it’s a good thing.)
2. The Yankees Bullpen is Still Elite: All in all, this was a very sturdy performance from the Yankees bullpen this evening. Luis Cessa and Adam Ottavino combined for one-hit, one-run ball in 3 innings of work with 3 strikeouts and 2 walks. On nearly any night, that sort of performance – especially not out of the top guys in the pen – will be enough to get the job done. It was not tonight.
Luis Cessa was great (2 innings of one-hit ball) and looked a lot like the very good reliever we saw in 2019. Adam Ottavino, on the other hand, looked pretty bad. He manufactured a run for the Rays, which is not something you want to do. Here is his plot:
Yikes. That is all over the place, and it’s exactly how you walk 2 guys and manufacture a rally for the Rays. Couple that with an unacceptable wild pitch with 1st and 2nd and 1 out and you have a recipe for a loss. Sure enough, Michael Perez his a sac fly to deep center and the Rays took a 1-0 lead. Ottavino surrendered no hits and barely any hard contact but couldn’t get out of his own way. Infuriating.
Adam Ottavino deserves a lot of blame for this game, but not all of it. The offense simply did not do the job at all. Again, 1 run from the pen should be enough.
3. Too Many Wasted Opportunities: However, the offense did the staff absolutely no favors. The Yankees really couldn’t get out of their own way in this one. It was an evening filled with bad offense and blunders. Frankly, there was not a lot happening in the first 6 innings. The Yanks were completely shut down by Blake Snell, Andrew Kittredge, and Peter Fairbanks. Through 6 innings, the Yankees had just 3 baserunners on 2 walks and 1 hit. They’d struck out 6 times. You gotta tip your cap to the Rays’ pitching, which was stellar, but there were a ton of ugly at-bats from New York.
They had their chances after that, though. Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton both walked to open up the 7th inning and the Yankees were in business for the first time, with Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, and Gio Urshela due up. Voit hit a shallow fly to left that I thought might dunk in…except Austin Meadows made a very good running catch:
Gleyber Torres then made a two-pitch out, followed by an Urshela walk (more on that below) to load the bases. That brought up Gary Sánchez, who got completely overpowered by Nick Anderson. He frankly wasn’t even close. Here is the plot:
And here is the video:
Let’s be fair for a second. There’s a good chance that Anderson is the best reliever in baseball right now. It’s hard to hit him! Especially when he has a nasty curve that plays off that gas. Still, Gary looked atrocious here. It was frustrating.
More frustrating even than this, though, was Mike Tauchman’s baserunning blunder in the top of the 8th. He lead off the frame with a double, which was very good. DJ LeMahieu followed that up with a grounder to short and Tauchman took off for third for some reason. He was dead in the water and that was basically that for the rally. It’s an unacceptable baserunning mistake. It just cannot happen, especially not when the opponent’s bullpen throws pitches like this:
Against guys like that, you just cannot waste opportunities or run into outs as the Yankees did tonight. It’s not a good recipe for winning games.
4. Gio Urshela is So Damn Good: I keep harping on this but it’s because I can’t really believe how good Gio Urshela is. The dude was a nobody before 2019 and now he’s a legitimate force. It’s always easy to point something like this out when a player hits a huge home run or delivers a game-winning hit, but less obvious when a player doesn’t even have a hit. Still, though, Gio had a great night at the plate despite his 0-2 line. He really worked the count and looked very comfortable against some dominant Rays pitching. Check out his overall plot:
His at-bat in the 7th inning, against the filthy Nick Anderson, was a sight to behold. It was a 10-pitch at-bat in which he fouled off touch pitch after tough pitch before working a walk to load the bases. Just because it didn’t amount to a run doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable. Gio deserves props for that. Here’s how that at-bat looked:
Frankly, this and his at-bat against Snell early on in the game were basically the only good at-bats the Yankees had tonight. Go figure.
- Gleyber Torres’ Slump: Gleyber Torres is zero for his last 24 at-bats. He has zero walks over that stretch and has struck out. He’s not making good contact. He is really, really struggling and I hope he snaps out of it soon. The Yankees are much better when he’s in top form. (The same is true for Aaron Hicks and Gary Sánchez, too, who are also mired in some awful slumps.)
- Rays Bullpen is Nasty: The Rays bullpen is infuriating. I’m sure I’m saying this in a more petulant manner than I’d like but I don’t care: they are infuriating. They completely dominated the Yankees tonight (6 innings, 2 H, 6 K) and looked nasty in doing so. The Rays are beatable – that offense is Not Good – but it is difficult to score runs off of these guys. May tomorrow be a better day.
- The Trop Sucks: I can’t write the first recap of the season in Tropicana Field without saying it. That field is horrible and it really feels like nothing good ever happens to the Yankees there. On the other hand, it was the most normal game of the season so far. The lack of fans was actually reassuring for once. Things can go back to normal indeed, huh?
The Yanks and Rays are playing a double-header tomorrow, so expect a full day of baseball ahead. Gerrit Cole (3-0, 2.55 ERA) will take the ball for the Yankees against Tyler Glasnow (0-, 3.12 ERA). A marquee pitching matchup, that is. The first pitch of the first game will be at 2:10 pm EDT.
We’ll keep you covered on both games and anything and everything that happens in between. Until then, enjoy your night, everyone.