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Yankees 3, Braves 2: Masahiro Tanaka perfect over two innings in return

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The splitter was back and as filthy as ever against the Braves.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees took on the Braves in the first night game of the spring, and all the eyes were on prized starter Masahiro Tanaka for his first start of the spring. Brian Cashman was even at the game sitting behind home plate. He did not disappoint. Tanaka dominated the Braves in his two innings of work, needing just 19 pitches to mow through their lineup in order. He struck out two batters and was so economical that he actually needed to go to the bullpen after his two innings just to log a satisfactory amount of work.

How was the splitter? Well, I'm glad you asked:

Vintage Tanaka. One scout called him "very sharp," and he certainly seemed to be doing just fine out on the mound. His velocity sat around 89-91, but again, first start of the spring. There's plenty of time for that to rise as he builds up strength. He said he felt fine afterwards, so his first start was just about as awesome as one could have hoped. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez recognized how dominant Tanaka would be after just one innings, as he was ejected after the first pitch in the bottom of the first for some reason or another. He probably just didn't want to watch his hitters swing their bats like drunken lumberjacks against Tanaka.

On offensive side of the ball, the biggest highlight came from Didi Gregorius, who had a very nice third inning. After making a nice play on defense to record the last out in the top of the third, he led off the bottom half with a shot off Shelby Miller to center that went for a triple thanks to his speed. A couple batters later, Brett Gardner grounded out to bring him home and the Yankees took a 1-0 lead. Didi later left the game after he took a pitch off his thigh, but there were no injury concerns--he was supposed to leave after that inning anyway.

Scott Baker relieved Tanaka and pitched two perfect innings of his own (albeit much less glorious innings), but he ran into trouble when Christian Bethancourt doubled to right with one out in the fifth. He struck out Chris Johnson before surrendering a game-tying single to long-lost Happy Days cast member Todd Cunningham. Atlanta took the lead in the next frame against former teammate David Carpenter, who allowed a pair of singles and then a RBI groundout to Alberto Callaspo.

The Yankees would not end up losing on this night, however. In the seventh, they rallied against righty Tyrell Jenkins, as Chase Headley led it off with a single that just snuck into center. After Alex Rodriguez grounded out softly to move pinch-runner Jonathan Galvez to second, Stephen Drew worked a walk, and outfield prospect Jake Cave crushed a long ground-rule double over Cunningham's head in center field, scoring Galvez to knot it up at two apiece. Infielder Nick Noonan then brought the go-ahead run home with a sacrifice fly to left.

Other than Tanaka, the game didn't feature too much excitement. Mark Teixeira and Kyle Roller combined to go 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, definitively proving that any game that doesn't feature Greg Bird is lame. Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran registered hits, and A-Rod mixed a walk in as well. Lefty reliever Justin Wilson was impressive in his inning of work, fanning a pair of Braves in the process. Kyle Davies and Wilking Rodriguez finished off the victory with scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth, respectively.

There will be another night game tomorrow as the Yankees and Red Sox square off in Ft. Myers at 7pm. If you have MLB.tv, you can catch the game on NESN.

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