Heading into the series opener against the San Francisco Giants, rumors circulated that the Yankees would look to start Chad Green in order to give Masahiro Tanaka extra rest. Instead, Green went to the bullpen and Tanaka took to the mound on four days rest. That decision worked out well for the Yankees, as they picked up a 3 - 2 win in the first game of the series.
One start can’t put away a season’s worth of narratives, but Tanaka pitched very well on regular rest tonight. In the first inning, he retired the top of the Giants order on just five pitches. While the rest of the game wasn’t as effortless, Tanaka never lost control on the mound. It was one of those strong outings we’ve come to expect out of the Yankees ace right-hander.
In fact, he only found himself in trouble twice. To start the top of the third inning, Gregor Blanco reached on an error charged to Rob Refsnyder. The ball went right through his legs. Denard Span singled and Blanco went from first to third, putting runners on the corners with nobody out. As Angel Pagan lined out to Carlos Beltran, Blanco broke for home. Beltran showed he still has life in his throwing arm, firing a strike to Austin Romine who tagged Blanco out to complete the double play. Giants manager Bruce Bochy challenged the play, arguing Blanco’s fingers caught the plate before Romine’s tag, but the umpires upheld the play.
The other close call came in the top of the fourth. Buster Posey leadoff with a single just out of the reach of shortstop Ronald Torreyes. Brandon Crawford struck out, but Tanaka then allowed a single to Connor Gillaspie and walked Jarrett Parker to load the bases. Tanaka rebounded, however, as he got former Yankee Ramiro Pena to foul out before striking out Blanco with a 95 mph fastball. He was amped. It was the most animated I’ve ever seen him on the mound. All told Tanaka threw six scoreless inning, allowing just four hits. His season ERA sits at an even 3.00 (3.28 FIP). He’s really good.
On the other side of the game, the Yankees batters got to Madison Bumgarner early. In the bottom of the first, Brett Gardner jumped right out of the gate, flaring bloop single to left. He immediately scored on a Starlin Castro double. Just like that, two batters into the game and the Yankees had a lead against Bumgarner. Beltran then worked a walk before Bumgarner made quick outs of Alex Rodriguez and Chase Headley. With two outs, Refsnyder drew a walk to load the bases. Bumgarner escaped without further damage after Austin Romine flew out to center field.
The Yankees scored again in the bottom of the second. With two outs and Torreyes on first, Castro singled to left, extending his dominance against Bumgarner. Torreyes advanced to third on the play as Pagan mishandled the ball. It looked like he overran it before having to turn around and recover. Beltran then singled to plate Torreyes, making it 2-0 Yankees. After that Bumgarner settled down. He completed seven innings, allowing the two runs on 115 pitches.
Unfortunately for Tanaka, that 2-0 lead and a chance at picking up a win didn’t last long. Dellin Betances came on in the seventh inning and promptly walked Parker. He made quick outs of Pena and Blanco before Span launched a double to put runners on second and third. A wild pitch allowed Parker to score, making it 2 - 1 Yankees, before Pagan grounded out to end the inning.
Andrew Miller took over in the eight inning and had himself an unusually wild outing. Catcher Trevor Brown (replacing the injured Posey) worked a one out single before Crawford struck out. Bochy then unleashed a barrage of pinch hitters who worked hits off of Miller: Grant Green singled and Mac Williamson doubled to score Brown. Miller managed to strike out Pena to end the inning, but the game was tied.
The Yankees immediately retook the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Headley got things started against with an infield single against reliever Josh Osich. Mark Teixeira, who came on as a defensive replacement in the seventh, drew a walk to put runners on first and second with no outs. Up next was Romine who hit into a bizarre fielder’s fielder’s choice; Crawford made the out at second before throwing the ball away at first base. That was his third error of the game, an anomaly for the usual defensive wizard. Headley read the misplay perfectly and came home to score making to give the Yankees a 3 - 2 lead. Sergio Romo came on to get the next two outs, but the damage was already done.
Aroldis Chapman entered in the ninth inning and worked around a leadoff double to secure the Yankees win and his 20th save. These two teams square off again tomorrow afternoon. It will be Ivan Nova against Jeff Samardzija. First pitch will be 4:05 PM and can be seen on YES.