Masahiro Tanaka went seven innings in his MLB debut Friday night against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, living up to the lofty expectations since signing a seven-year deal with the Yankees this offseason. He struck out eight batters and gave up six hits and three runs (two earned) in his outing. The other big news was that the Yankees lost Mark Teixeira to a hamstring strain in the second inning, forcing their already thin infield to spread themselves even thinner still.
The stars of the show on offense were undoubtedly Jacoby Ellsbury and Yangervis Solarte. Ellsbury reached base in all of his first four trips to the plate with a double, single, double, and a walk. He stole two bases and made an impressive diving play in center field. Solarte continues to make the decision to put him in the lineup a no-brainer with two hits and three runs driven in tonight. The Yankees won an important challenge of a play at first where Ichiro Suzuki was originally called out with Brian Roberts on base. Joe Girardi rightfully challenged the call that was overturned before Solarte smacked a two-run double to put the Yankees back on top.
Ichiro Suzuki also made the most of his second straight start with three hits and two runs. Every Yankee had at least one hit except Roberts who came in the game for Teixeira. Kelly Johnson moved from third to first and Solarte moved from second to third. That could be the lineup we see a lot going forward if Teixeira needs to miss any considerable amount of time.
Tanaka was greeted by a Melky Cabrera home run on his third pitch of the game, but the Japanese right-hander settled in from there by closing out the game with four straight clean innings. Girardi said that he expected Tanaka to pitch around 100 pitches and he came in just shy of that mark. Give the 25-year-old credit for not letting things spiral out of control after the first and second innings didn't go exactly as planned, including a rare error by Teixeira in the field that led to an unearned run.
Matt Thornton and Dellin Betances combined to pitch the eighth inning before David Robertson was called upon in a non-save situation to clean up an erratic Betances' mess in the ninth. Dellin just didn't have control over his pitches tonight, plain and simple. Robertson got Dioner Navarro to pop up before getting Brett Lawrie to hit into a fielder's choice and closed it out with a Maicer Izturis fly out to Gardner on a sliding catch. This team was brutal to watch for most of last season, and the first two games of this year were painfully reminiscent of that, but they were a whole lot of fun to watch tonight.
If you want to find a Yankee who did not have a banner evening, look no further than third base coach Rob Thomson. Thomson has drawn ire in the past for questionable sends and holds, and tonight he was in pretty rare form again. Ichiro Suzuki singled in the fifth inning and a throw over by the pitcher go away from Edwin Encarnacion at first base. Ichiro rightfully ran to second base before Thomson decided to wave him on to third. Ichiro was, as you may have guessed, very out. It did not end there. Dean Anna picked up his first big league hit on a single to left in the ninth inning with Solarte on third base. The hit was shallow and Melky Cabrera has one of the better arms in the outfield, as Thomson should know. He sent Solarte to be easily thrown out at home. It did not matter in this case with the Yankees leading 7-3, but these mistakes in a closer game could be a dagger. Get it together, coach.
Rob Thomson was sending Ichiro all the way. He was thrown out by a few feet.— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) April 5, 2014
No tests have been performed on Teixeira to this point, and Joe Girardi says any that are deemed necessary won't take place until Monday. That almost certainly means that Johnson will be playing first for the remainder of the series. Can't complain about that too much, as Solarte has more than earned more playing time.
The Yankees get another exciting debut tomorrow when Michael Pineda makes his highly anticipated return to MLB at 1:07 pm. Hopefully his goes as well as Tanaka's did tonight.