Masahiro Tanaka allowed three runs in the first two innings, which included a homer to the leadoff hitter, Melky Cabrera, but he rebounded to retire 16 of the last 18 batters that he faced in helping the Yankees beat the Blue Jays 7-3 on Friday night at the Rogers Centre.
This was Tanaka’s 100th professional win after winning 99 games with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. His first win for the Yankees helped even the Yankees record at 2-2 and win their second consecutive game. Tanaka only allowed two earned runs and was impressively able to record eight strikeouts while not walking anyone. Except for the first two innings, his splitter and slider, which are his out pitches, both worked very well for him.
Tanaka proved that he has a lot of poise since he was able to bounce back from his rocky start. He was probably nervous in the first two innings, but his ability to make adjustments should help him succeed against MLB hitters. The pitching coach, Larry Rothschild, said that, “I was not surprised by his tenacity and his composure at all.”
On the offensive side, the starting lineup looked a little different than normal because Derek Jeter received a scheduled day off because Saturday’s game is a day game and Joe Girardi wanted to give the veterans some rest to begin the season. Alfonso Soriano and Brian Roberts didn’t start the game because there was a lot of turbulence on the flight from Houston and they did not get to their hotel until about 6 a.m. However, Roberts ended up having to play second because Kelly Johnson would switch to play first base when Mark Teixeira had to leave the game as a result of straining his right hamstring going for a foul ball.
Not having Soriano or Jeter in the lineup or Teixeira for some of the game did not hurt their offensive production. The Yankees had 16 hits and Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Kelly Johnson, Ichiro Suzuki and Yangervis Solarte all had two or more hits.
Carlos Beltran got the scoring started as Colby Rasmus was not able to catch his shallow pop up in center, and Ellsbury ended up easily scoring. Later in the first, Johnson hit a single between first and second to load the bases. Teixeira’s single scored Gardner, but that at-bat by Teixeira would be his last one of the game.
In the third inning, Ichiro was called out at first on a play that he definitely appeared to be safe and Girardi smartly use the new challenge play. The umpires overturned the ruling, which allowed Solarte to have an at-bat in the inning. He continued his hot start to the season by hitting a deep double to the wall that scored Ichiro and Roberts. It is proving so far to be a great decision to choose Solarte over Eduardo Nunez.
Johnson, who had only played 18 innings at first before this game, made a great diving play to save a run in the third inning. Johnson will have to play first over the weekend and beyond because Teixeira, who only played in 15 games last season, has been placed on the 15-day DL as a result of the hamstring strain, according to the NY Daily News. The Yankees are losing a power hitting switch hitter in Teixeira.
The Yankees scored their fifth run on Brian McCann’s single to shallow left that scored Ellsbury. In this game Ellbury did what the Yankees acquired him to do as he stole two bases and scored three runs. Solarte’s double to deep center that scored Ichiro gave the Yankees an insurance run in the ninth.
Dean Anna, the 27-year-old rookie, recorded his first Major League hit in the ninth inning. The only negative for the Yankees besides Teixeira’s injury was that Dellin Betances did not show the same command of the strike zone that he did against the Houston Astros. The walk he allowed to Adam Lind forced Girardi to bring in David Robertson in a non save situation.
Michael Pineda will make his first start for the Yankees at 1:07 p.m. on Saturday after injuries derailed his 2012 and 2013 seasons.