How quickly can things change this October? A mere 36 hours ago, the Yankees were coming off an excellent series-opening victory and were riding a three-game postseason winning streak. Seemingly in the blink of an eye, their season is now on the line. They fell behind early tonight and couldn’t recover, outslugged and outpitched by their rivals to the south. When the dust settled, the Rays had downed the Yankees 8-4 to take a 2-1 series lead. The series is certainly not over, but the Yankees surely did not hope to have their backs up against the wall this soon.
Winner of the Game
If the Yankees’ postseason run ends tomorrow night, let’s all agree not to forget Giancarlo Stanton’s performance here. An early exit would ensure Stanton’s heroics won’t go down in history like, say, Alex Rodriguez’s did in 2009, but what Stanton has done this October has been downright remarkable. He homered in his fifth straight playoff game, providing the Yankees with half of their run total:
He Got 5 (in-a-row) On It. pic.twitter.com/R3OhH4H4ZI— New York Yankees (@Yankees) October 8, 2020
Honorable mention: Young right-handers Nick Nelson and Michael King both impressed late in the game. Nelson touched 98 mph with his fastball in a scoreless seventh, and King was perfect over the final two innings. Maybe they’ll be in consideration for work in the future, if other members of the bullpen continue to falter (and if the Yankees stay alive).
Loser of the Game
Masahiro Tanka’s start reminded me of an NFL quarterback who turns the ball over. A QB’s job typically entails making accurate, on-time throws and never putting the ball in harm’s way, much like a pitcher’s job is to deliver accurate pitches without putting the ball in the middle-middle danger zone. Like a quarterback for the New York Giants (or Jets), Tanaka was reckless with the ball at times, making a few bad mistakes and paying the price. In baseball, errant throws result not in interceptions, but dingers.
Look at the location on this curveball to Kevin Kiermaier, who smashed a back-breaking three-run homer:
Kevin Kiermaier... GONE!!— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 8, 2020
Clutch shot to give @RaysBaseball a 3-run lead! pic.twitter.com/2aty5riSys
Or on this dreadful slider that Randy Arozarena sent into orbit, chasing Tanaka from the game:
It’s Randy’s arena pic.twitter.com/MErTLnfNMh— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 8, 2020
To be fair, even precise pitchers like Tanaka fail to execute pitches sometimes, and not every meatball gets hit 425 feet. Tanaka was not so fortunate tonight. He made the wrong errors at the wrong time, and ended up with a four-plus inning, eight-hit, five-run line. It was the worst start of his postseason career that didn’t involve ill-timed rain delays.
Honorable mention: Chad Green. Aaron Boone tried to get two innings from Green after Tanaka, and Green allowed a two-run home run to Michael Perez that all but put the game out of reach. Instead of giving the Yankee lineup a chance to come back, Green dug the hole deeper, and may have thrown too many pitches to go in a must-win Game Four.