For the fourth year in a row and the sixth time in the last seven years, the Yankees lost on Opening Day. That’s an annoying habit. The Blue Jays used a five-run third inning to take a big early lead and won the season-opener 6-1.
The first two innings were vintage Masahiro Tanaka. His very first pitch of the season was a dastardly 81 mph slider for a strike, the kind of pitch Jose Reyes never would have expected. First pitch of the year is usually just a fastball over the plate the hitter takes for a called strike, right? That seems like the perfect first pitch of the year. Tanaka broke off a slider instead.
So yeah, the first two innings were Grade-A Tanaka. He retired the first five batters he faced (three strikeouts) and six of the first seven batters with an infield single mixed in. Things fell apart in the third inning, when the bottom of the order set the table for a five-run rally. Kevin Pillar yanked a single down the third base line — Brett Gardner made a nice play to get to the ball in a hurry, holding Pillar to a single — and rookie Devon Travis worked a walk.
With two on an no outs, Jose Reyes laid down a sacrifice bunt, Tanaka went for the ball, then deferred to Chase Headley, who threw it wide of first. Mark Teixeira tried to stay on the bag and that didn’t work. One run scored on the play and Reyes cruised into second. Russell Martin followed with a two-run single to right and two batters later Edwin Encarnacion unloaded on a flat two-seamer for a two-run homer. Just like that, it was 5-0.
Tanaka allowed a soft single and a walk in a scoreless fourth, which ended his day. He was on a 90-ish pitch count and threw 82, including a bunch of high-stress pitches in the third and fourth inning. Tanaka struck out six and allowed the five runs (four earned) on four singles, one homer, and two walks. Here’s a quick PitchFX breakdown:
|4/6/15 Velocity||4/6/15 %Thrown||2014 Velocity||2014 %Thrown|
Despite saying he doesn’t expect much velocity this season, Tanaka had plenty on Monday. He wasn’t exactly Jamie Moyering it out there. But I just don’t see how Tanaka expects to get through the season throwing ~70% offspeed pitches, no matter how good they are. Hopefully this is just a one-game blip.
Anyway, Tanaka looked great in the first two innings and terrible the next two innings. The four innings mark the shortest start by a Yankees’ Opening Day starter since Phil Niekro also went four innings in 1985. The Blue Jays were flailing like crazy at Tanaka’s offspeed stuff, though they put good wood on anything left over the plate.
Yeah, Headley’s error hurt but I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference. It probably only would have been four runs instead of five. Better luck next time, Masahiro.
Fire Jeff Pentland!
For the second straight season, Gardner hit New York’s first home run of the year. Both were against the Blue Jays too. Gardner yanked a Drew Hutchison offering into the right-center field seats in the sixth inning for the team’s first run and first extra-base hit of the season. Gardner ripped a line drive to right that Jose Bautista leaped to catch at the wall in the first inning, so he made solid contact on more than one occasion.
The rest of the lineup … not so much. The Yankees’ first hit of the season was Brian McCann’s fourth inning ground single down the first base line, and their first base-runner was Alex Rodriguez’s third inning walk. A-Rod also poked a single to center in the fifth. He started as the DH and seventh place hitter. According to James Smyth, it was the first time A-Rod batted in the bottom third of the order in a regular season game since May 1996.
The play-by-play tells me the Yankees only had four 1-2-3 innings on offense, which seems hard to believe. There were an awful lot of quick, lazy outs. Eleven of their 33 plate appearances ended in three pitches or less and ten of the final dozen men they sent to the plate made outs. Gardner’s homer leading off the sixth was New York’s last hit of the day. They had three all together.
One thing did go according to plan on Opening Day: the bullpen was pretty awesome. The only blemish was Travis’ solo homer off Chasen Shreve. Chris Martin struck out the side in his inning, Shreve retired four of the five hitters he faced (all of whom were right-handed), David Carpenter retired all five men he faced, then Esmil Rogers bailed out Justin Wilson in the ninth after he walked the bases loaded. One run and one hit in five innings for the bullpen. Now if only the rest of the team could figure out how to give them a lead.
Didi Gregorius took a pitch to the elbow in the eighth inning but stayed it game. He went 0-for-2 with the hit-by-pitch and made one or two nice plays in the field, though he wasn’t tested particularly hard. Gregorius also got thrown out trying to steal third base to end the eighth inning. That was bad. Don’t do that again Didi.
The top four hitters in the lineup went a combined 1-for-14 (.071) with two walks. The one hit was Gardner’s homer and he was the only one of those four hitters to hit the ball hard on the afternoon. On the bright side, the Yankees only struck out five times. That’s good, right?
And finally, Elias says the Yankees started the season with average roster age of 30 years and 33 days. That’s their lowest average Opening Day age since 1996 (29 years and 299 days).
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
We have a new and generally pointless feature here are RAB: announcer standings! Check that out throughout the season to see how the Yankees fare on the field with various broadcast booths. You can find it under the “Resources” tab in the nav bar above. Anyway, here are the box score and video highlights and here are the standings after one game.
The rest of the season! The best part of Opening Day isn’t the game itself, it’s knowing there are still another 161 on the way. The Yankees and Blue Jays are off Tuesday, then they’ll resume this series Wednesday night in the Bronx. It’ll be R.A. Dickey against Michael Pineda.