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Yankees 3, Astros 5: Betances, umpires unravel in eighth inning of Opening Day defeat

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The Yankees opened the season looking to avenge their Wild Card defeat against the Astros, but fell in a frustrating 5-3 loss.

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The Yankees opened the 2016 season much like they ended the 2015 season; with a disappointing loss to the Astros. Despite a solid start from Masahiro Tanaka, New York couldn't quite muster enough offense against Dallas Keuchel, falling by a score of 5-3.

Keuchel dominated the Yankees in 2015, starting three times against the Bombers and yielding zero total runs. The Yankees ended that scoreless streak early, striking for two runs in the second. Carlos Beltran singled and Brian McCann walked, and both advanced on Chase Headley's ground out to shortstop Carlos CorreaStarlin Castro drove them both in with a double down the left-field line, acquitting himself well with the Yankee Stadium faithful in his first Yankee at-bat.

The Yankees failed to add to their lead, but the 2-0 advantage held up in the early going. Tanaka looked sharp, tantalizing the Houston batters with sinking two-seamers and darting splitters. He retired the first nine batters in order before running into trouble in the fourth inning.

Aaron Hicks misplayed a hard line drive off the bat of Jose Altuve, who led off the fourth with a double, as Hicks allowed the ball to reach the wall. After an infield single by George Springer, Altuve scored on a fielder's choice from Correa to make it 2-1. A groundout by Colby Rasmus and a strikeout of Carlos Gomez ended the inning without further damage.

Keuchel settled in after his early troubles, as New York failed to get anything going as the game wore on. Keuchel, renowned for his excellent control, struggled with it early on, and walked four batters in the first three innings. He walked as many as four batters in a game just once in 2015. However, after McCann led off the bottom of the fourth with a single, Keuchel recorded 12 straight outs to conclude his outing.

Unsurprisingly, ground balls were Keuchel's friend in subduing the Yankee bats. In 2015, Keuchel induced groundballs on 61.7% of his balls in play, second among qualified starting pitchers. That trend continued, as he recorded nine outs via the grounder, compared to seven flyouts. He finished his outing with five strikeouts and four walks, yielding just two runs across seven strong innings.

Tanaka maintained a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning, but couldn't quite hold on. He retired the first two batters of the inning, but left a splitter out over the plate to Correa. The young star lined the pitch into the right-field seats to tie the game at 2-2. Joe Girardi yanked Tanaka after he issued his first walk of the game to the next batter, Colby Rasmus. Chasen Shreve came on to retire Gomez and end the inning with the score still tied. Tanaka finished the game having thrown five and two-thirds innings, allowing just two runs on four hits, four strikeouts, and one walk.

Things unraveled in the eighth inning. Shreve worked an uneventful seventh to keep things tied as Keuchel continued tossing zeroes on the board, and on came Dellin Betances in the eighth inning. Betances walked Altuve to lead off the inning, and to the plate came Correa. Betances managed to induce a weak grounder back to the mound, but air-mailed the throw to first into right-field, allowing Altuve to score the go-ahead run. An incensed Girardi argued Betances had no angle to throw the ball to first past Correa, who appeared out of the baseline, but to no avail:

The damage continued from there. Correa stole second, and Rasmus followed with a walk. Betances recovered to strike out Gomez, but he yielded a sharp single to right field by Luis Valbuena (after another questionable ump call on a possible strike three), scoring Correa and a hustling Rasmus from first base. Johnny Barbato then replaced Betances and immediately hit Tyler White with a pitch, before striking out Marwin Gonzalez to end the inning with the score 5-2.

Didi Gregorius launched a home run in the bottom of the eighth off of Ken Giles, cutting the lead to 5-3. Barbato returned to pitch a scoreless ninth, but the Yankees could not muster a rally in the bottom of the ninth, going away meekly against closer Luke Gregerson.

The 5-3 loss marks New York's fifth consecutive Opening Day defeat. Things looked promising through the first few innings before unraveling late. The Yankees and Astros will play again tomorrow night, with Michael Pineda squaring off against Collin McHugh.

Hopefully, New York can take down Houston and finally exact a measure of revenge for last year's AL Wild Card loss. Losing on Opening Day is a bummer, but the great thing about baseball is that there are 161 more of these things left. Onward.