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Masahiro Tanaka implodes as Yankees fall to the Rays, 6-3

The Yankees suffered their first loss at Yankee Stadium in 2020.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees had to lose a game at Yankee Stadium eventually. It just happened to take 11 games to get there. The Bombers suffered their first home loss of 2020 on Tuesday night, and in annoying fashion. They fell behind the Rays early, and couldn’t quite claw their way back in. New York fell to Tampa Bay by a score of 6-3.

Tanaka’s Troubles

From the get-go, Masahiro Tanaka looked like a carpenter without a hammer. Tanaka needs his splitter to nail the bottom of the zone to be successful. Instead, it got drilled over and over again. According to Katie Sharp, 14.1% of his pitches were hard-hit, the worst percentage in a start of his Yankees career.

While he got through the first two innings unscathed, it felt like only a matter of time before the bottom fell out. It happened in the third inning, when a Kevin Kiermaier triple and a Michael Perez single combined for a run. Austin Meadows followed with a single of his own, before the red-hot Brandon Lowe turned on a fastball up in the zone for a three-run homer.

Tanaka labored through the fourth, allowing a run on a single, a double, and a passed ball, but the knockout blow came an inning later. Meadows drove him from the game with a leadoff home run to dead-center—424 feet—off a hanging splitter, and that was the story of the night for the 31-year-old.

The final line on the right-hander: 4 IP, 6 R (5 ER), 8 H, 2 HR, 2 K. Tanaka tried to grind it out, to find something he could use on the mound, but no dice. Everything stayed up, and the Rays took advantage. A bad start all around.

Three Runs Aren’t Enough

The Yankees made Blake Snell work early, taking kong at-bats and driving his pitch count up in the first two innings, but they had nothing to show for it. Trailing 5-0, it would have been easy to tune out, swing away, and try again tomorrow. But the Yankees fought back, starting with a big solo home run by Gary Sánchez in the fourth inning.

It was an impressive at-bat by the Yankees’ catcher. Sánchez took a first-pitch strike, a pitch in his wheelhouse, one he probably wanted back. Then he watched a ball out of the zone, before spitting on a pretty good changeup. Snell then left another fastball up over the plate, and this time, Sánchez was ready. He sent it 419 feet to left field, with an exit velocity of 102.9 mph.

The Yankees struck against Snell again in the fifth inning, this time with a two-run homer by noted leadoff hitter Luke Voit. That’s Voit’s third home run in two days, and his eighth on the year. His batting line is now up to .284/.351/.657 with a 168 wRC+. That’s my first baseman.

At 6-3, the Yankees had a chance to tie the game—or maybe even take the lead—in the seventh. The Bombers loaded the bases on a Mike Tauchman walk, a Clint Frazier single, and a Mike Ford hit-by-pitch. With one out and Diego Castillo on the ropes, Voit struck out looking—with no help from a brutal strike one call from the umpire—and Gio Urshela grounded out to end the threat. The Yankees had their chance, but they couldn’t push a run across.


Lindsey Adler called tonight the Maximum Gary Game. In addition to his home run, Sánchez allowed a passed ball in the fourth inning. A big home run and a passed ball is basically a caricature Gary Sánchez performance.

Shout out to Nick Nelson, who tossed three shutout innings in relief of Tanaka. The right-hander has electric stuff, and he kept the Yankees in the game. You can read an interview our own Dan Kelly conducted with Nelson last week, in two parts, here.

Luis Cessa also looked good in his appearance, using a sweeping slider to great effect.

The bullpen did its job, but the deficit Tanaka created was too much to overcome.

And, lastly, after years of waiting, we finally got Roe vs. Wade! Rays closer Chaz Roe finished the game off by forcing Tyler Wade to fly out. Incredible.

The Yankees continue their series against the Rays tomorrow night. Gerrit Cole will square off against Tyler Glasnow, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PM.

Box Score