After a rough trip through Oakland, this series opener against Seattle was just what the doctor ordered. The Yankees beat up on the Mariners ace, while Masahiro Tanaka pitched one of the best games of the season. That resulted in the Bombers topping the M’s by a score of 4-0. Terrific game, I would watch it again.
Believe it or not, the game actually started with a sense of dread. James Paxton took the mound and retired the side on nine pitches. Given how sluggish the lineup has been of late, it felt like this would be another game where the Yankees go quietly at the plate.
Goodness, was I wrong.
Luke Voit picked up the Bombers’ first hit of the game with two outs in the second inning, because honestly, who else would? That brought Gleyber Torres to the plate, who wasted little time in giving the Yankees the lead, He took Paxton deep for a two-run homer, his 100th career hit. That was also his 23rd home run on the season. Torres is definitely all the way back following last month’s slump.
The fun continued in the top of the third, when Andrew McCutchen hit his first home run in pinstripes. His two-run blast was a no-doubter off the bat, traveling 398 feet. That shot was a thing of beauty. Cutch’s homer also gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead.
Paxton settled down after that, but the damage was done. He finished the night having allowed four runs over six innings, while striking out eight. Given his recent stretch of struggles, I totally expected this to be a trap game. Instead, his recent struggles continued.
As touched upon in the game thread, Masahiro Tanaka has been enjoying a super second half. That trend continued on Friday night, as Tanaka tossed a gem against the Mariners. The right-hander allowed a two-out single to Robinson Cano in the first inning, then promptly retired the next 13 batters he faced.
Mike Zunino hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the sixth to put their first runner in scoring position. He struck out Dee Gordon and Mitch Haniger for the first two outs, but the inning wouldn’t be that easy. Jean Segura stepped to the plate and hit a groundball by Tanaka that Didi Gregorius fielded cleanly and fired to first, but Voit couldn’t pick it out of the dirt. Thankfully, Tanaka struck Cano out to end the inning.
Tanaka bounced back and pitched his way into the eighth inning. He fell behind 3-0 on the first two batters, but retired them on a strikeout and a grounder to second. The final out of the inning was capped off by a terrific play at first base, when Voit beat out the lightning fast Gordon to the bag.
That was all for Tanaka, who pitched one of the finest games the Yankees have seen all season. He allowed three hits over eight innings while striking out 10. His splitter looked nasty all night, diving out of the zone right as batters took their swings. He also did a great job of painting the black with his two-seamer when necessary — masterpiece stuff by Tanaka.
This outing dropped his season ERA to 3.61 (4.03 FIP). It also landed him right in the middle of the Wild Card Game starter discussions. If this version of Tanaka is here to stay, I am very much okay with handing him the ball in a lose and go home scenario. He’s that good right now.
David Robertson took over in the ninth inning, and he had an eventful frame. D-Rob struck out Haniger, but then issued a walk to Segura. That brought Cano to the plate, who bounced into a fielder’s choice. The lead runner got erased, and whittled the M’s down to their final out. Nelson Cruz jumped ahead 3-0, but hit a fly ball to right field to end the game.
Lance Lynn will square off against Felix Hernandez in game two tomorrow night. First pitch i scheduled for 9:10 PM. Looking ahead, and the Yankees come home to host the Blue Jays next weekend. If you’re interested in attending. you can purchase tickets through StubHub.