All eyes have been on Masahiro Tanaka since he injured his elbow last season, and for the first time since the injury, Tanaka pitched like his old self tonight. Through seven innings, he held the Rays to just two total hits, zero walks and struck out eight batters. Compared to his first two starts of the season, Tanaka showed much better command tonight, and was more efficient with his pitches, finishing the night with a pitch count of just 85 as the Yankees clinched their first series win of the season.
This game started off as a real pitchers duel until the sixth inning, when things started to fall apart for Jake Odorizzi. With one out, he walked both Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez. Then Brian McCann ripped a ball to right field that bounced off of the top of the wall to give him the first triple of the season, just inches away from a home run. That gave the Yankees a two run lead.
They tacked on the remaining seven runs all in the seventh inning which lasted for about 40 minutes and saw the Yankees send 12 batters to the plate. The inning started with a bloop hit to Chase Headley, before Odorizzi was chased out of the game. C.J. Riefenhauser took over for the Rays, and quickly gave up a double to Stephen Drew, sac fly to Gregorio Petit, single to Jacoby Ellsbury and RBI single to Brett Gardner. Then Grant Balfour came in to walk Alex Rodriguez and load the bases for Mark Teixeira. Another run scored thanks to Tex's sac fly, giving the Yankees a five- run lead. Balfour just couldn't limit the damage and immediately plunked McCann to re-load the bases. This brought Chris Young up to the plate, who the announcers said was only playing in this game because Carlos Beltran had a cold. Maybe Beltran should be sick more often, 'cause Young hit a monster of a grand slam to make the score 9-0. The Yankees batted around, and Balfour walked both Headley and Drew to bring up Petit who finally popped out to end the inning.
Even though he had a long enough wait to take a nap, Tanaka came back out to finish the inning. David Carpenter and Branden Pinder took the eighth and ninth innings to complete the shutout. Things got rocky for Pinder, who was charged with a balk and loaded the bases, but he got Desmond Jennings to ground out to end the game. The Yankees couldn't have asked for more from Tanaka or the offense in this game, and it was a relief to see Tanaka pitch so well.
The Yankees will send Michael Pineda to the mound tomorrow afternoon to try and clinch the first series sweep of the season at 1:10 EST.