Earlier today, I wrote in the game thread that this matchup could set the tone for the series. I would like to take that back, please. Masahiro Tanaka got shelled once again, while the offense struggled to score off the thoroughly mediocre Drew Pomeranz. On the one hand, you could say the offense wasted too many opportunities. Conversely, they would’ve done fine if Tanaka didn’t bury them. This game was as frustrating as they come, as the Yankees dropped the series opener to the Red Sox by a score of 5 - 4.
Tanaka’s outing got off to a foreboding start in the first inning. He allowed back-to-back singles to Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, putting runners on first and third with no outs. Tanaka forced Xander Bogaerts to ground into a fielder’s choice, but Betts scored, giving the Red Sox a 1 - 0 lead. The Yankees right-hander worked out of further trouble, but he didn’t look so good.
After working clean innings in the second and third, Tanaka fell apart in the fourth. He issued a leadoff walk to Bogaerts before leaving a hanging slider to Mitch Moreland. The Red Sox first baseman sent the pitch deep to right field for a two-run shot. That wasn’t the only damage Tanaka would inflict, however. Hanley Ramirez, the very next batter, crushed a two-seam fastball into the left field seats for a solo home run. That made it 4 - 1, Red Sox.
Boston wasn’t done, however. Tanaka got two quick outs in the fifth inning before bringing Benintendi to the plate. Two pitches later and the Red Sox had a 5 - 1 lead. The rookie outfielder crushed a sinker, sending it deep to right field. That was the third home run allowed on the evening for the Yankees right-hander, and the 17th on the season.
Tanaka’s final line on the night was not pretty. He allowed five runs in as many innings while striking out just two. Command plagued him all night. He left a number of mistakes right in the middle of the strike zone.
There are far too many sinkers and sliders in the middle of the zone. Tanaka can’t seem to make those pitches move, and it’s costing the team. I honestly don’t know what the Yankees can do. Brian Cashman insists the right-hander isn’t hurt. They just can’t keep running him out there though. This is really a troublesome quandary.
As for the offense, the Yankees got on the board in the second inning. Aaron Hicks worked a one-out walk, his 29th on the season, to get things started. Didi Gregorius followed with a single to center field, but the return throw from Betts sailed into the seats down the third base line. That error allowed Hicks to score and Gregorius to move to third with one out.
This would have been a prime situation for Chase Headley to drive in a run — all he needed was a fly ball — but he struck out in predictable fashion. Chris Carter then smoked a ground out to third base to end the inning. It felt like the Yankees could have done some damage against Pomeranz, but alas. They didn’t get the job done.
It wouldn’t be until the fifth inning before the Yankees scored again. Naturally, it was Carter who hit a solo home run. That wasn’t even his A-swing; he was way out in front. This at-bat remind us of Carter’s easy power. He’s struggled so much this season, but the potential is there. That’s what makes him so frustrating.
On the bright side, the Yankees forced Pomeranz from the game after that inning. Robby Scott came on in relief and instantly worked into trouble. Starlin Castro and Hicks each picked up singles to put runners on the corners with no outs. The Bombers looked ready to capitalize, but Gregorius banged into a double play. Castro scored, making it a 5 - 3 game, but an opportunity was lost. Headley then flew out to end the inning.
Things got interesting in the eighth inning for the Yankees. Holliday led off with a double before moving to third on a Castro ground out. With one out, Gregorius came to the plate and struck out, but the ball got past Christian Vazquez. That allowed Holliday to score and Gregorius to reach first base. Headley then worked a walk, and for a moment it looked like the Yankees would tie the game off Craig Kimbrel. Carter happened instead, ending the inning on the most ridiculous strikeout of the season.
Strike three came on a pitch at his shoulders. Carter actually swung at that, and I’m still flummoxed. That was the club’s best chance to score as Kimbrel regained form in the ninth. What a maddeningly frustrating game. Between Tanaka’s struggles and the offense flailing away, the only positive development that came out was Chad Green’s scoreless 3.1 innings in relief. Yeesh.
Game two takes place tomorrow night, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PM. Rick Porcello and CC Sabathia will start. Let’s hope it turns out better than tonight’s mess.