Back to the future, Part I
Alex Rodriguez delivered a vintage performance in the series opener against the Rays, leading the Yankees to a 5-4 win at Tropicana Field. A-Rod was almost literally the entire Yankees offense on Friday night. Seriously.
Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with four RBI and scored two runs; the rest of the lineup produced one run and went 2-for-26 in the game. Each of his three hits either gave the Yankees the lead or tied the game: his second-inning solo homer put the Yankees up 1-0, his sixth inning two-run blast tied the game at 4-4, and his eighth inning single drove in the game-winning run.
Let’s give A-Rod’s performance the proper Yankeemetric treatment, in bullet-point form:
• His first homer traveled 477 feet, according to hittrackeronline.com, the longest home run in the majors this season and the second-longest by any Yankee over the last 10 seasons. The only longer one was a 488-foot shot by Rodriguez on June 15, 2006 off Cliff Lee at the old Yankee Stadium.
• He is the second-oldest Yankee ever to have multi-homer game with four-or-more RBI, behind only a 43-year-old Enos Slaughter July 19, 1959 vs. the White Sox.
• He ended the night with four homers and 11 RBI after the first 10 games of the season. A-Rod is the first Yankee in franchise history to hit that many homers and have that many RBI in the team’s first 10 games at the age of 39 or older. The last 39-year-old (or older) on any team to reach those totals this early into the season was Eddie Murray for the Indians in 1995.
A-Rod’s eighth-inning heroics were set up by a lead-off single from Carlos Beltran. It was his 1,000th hit in the American League, making him the eighth player in major-league history with at least 1,000 hits in both leagues. The others are Frank Robinson, Dave Winfield, Vladimir Guerrero, Fred McGriff, Orlando Cabrera, Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano.
Back to the future, Part II
Masahiro Tanaka tossed his first (and hopefully not last) gem of the season on Saturday night as the Yankees clinched their first series win of the season with a 9-0 victory. It was the second-biggest shutout win for the Yankees at Tropicana Field, behind only a 10-0 blowout on April 10, 2010.
Tanaka dominated the Rays lineup, throwing seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts, no walks and two hits allowed. The last Yankee right-hander with a performance like that – at least eight strikeouts, zero walks and no more than two hits given up – was Mike Mussina in his near-perfect game against the Red Sox on Sept. 2, 2001.
The game was a pitchers duel until the sixth inning when Brian McCann ripped a two-run triple to break a scoreless tie. It had been more than 15 years since a Yankee catcher hit a go-ahead triple that late in a game. Jorge Posada’s sixth-inning bases-loaded triple on April 13, 2000 was the game-winning hit against the Rangers.
Chris Young turned the game into a rout with a grand slam in the seventh inning. He is the first Yankee right-fielder with a grand slam against the Rays since Paul O’Neil on August 16, 2001. Before Young, no Yankee right-fielder had ever hit a grand slam at Tropicana Field.
How sweep it is
The Yankees finished off their first sweep of the season with a 5-3 win on Sunday. Last year the team didn’t record its first series sweep of three games or more until June 10-12 at Seattle.
Yes, the Yankees have certainly lived up to their Bronx Bombers nickname this season (17 homers in 12 games) but don’t underestimate their ability to play smallball, too. They scored two of their five runs via sacrifice flies on Sunday, bring their total to an MLB-best 10 sac flies on the season. It is just the second time since they became an official stat in 1954 that the Yankees have hit double-digits sac flies in the team’s first 12 games (had 12 in 1997).
Andrew Miller struck out three batters after giving up a leadoff double for his fourth save of the season. It was his third consecutive outing with a save and at least three strikeouts, the first Yankee reliever ever to have a streak of games like that (Mariano Rivera never did it more than two appearances in a row, believe it or not).