The Yankees were a well-rested bunch heading north of the border for the first time this year for a meeting with the divisional rival Blue Jays. The rainout on Sunday in Detroit made sure of that. That extra day of rest meant Joe had the option of leaning on his lights out bullpen more if he needed to last night, and Joe didn't hesitate to do that when the opportunity presented itself. The bullpen did what they've been doing: prevented runs, provided distance, protected leads, and struck guys out, and the Yankees took the first game of the series.
Joe was probably hoping he wouldn't have to ask a lot of his 'pen in ace Masahiro Tanaka's second start of the year. Tanaka was pretty good in his first start, but a lack of pinpoint command on the corners and a careful approach with men on base drove his pitch count up and he didn't get through the 6th inning. It was more of the same last night, as Tanaka racked up a lot of pitches early and only completed 5.
It started in the bottom of the 1st when he got 2 relatively quick outs before walking Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion on 13 pitches. The Encarnacion at-bat was especially frustrating because Tanaka started him off with 2 swinging strikes and then never came close to putting him away on the next 4 pitches. Tanaka survived the inning unscathed and worked around a leadoff walk in the second, but his command problems finally cost him in the 3rd, when a leadoff hit batsman in an 0-2 count turned into 2 Toronto runs on a Josh Donaldson single and Jose Bautista double. To be fair to Tanaka, it was Jacoby Ellsbury's misread that allowed Bautista's double to be a double. Not sure what he saw, but it was a bad play and it gave Toronto an extra run.
It took the Yankees a while to match that 2-spot against Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez. They got a run in the top of the 2nd on a pair of walks and a ribbie groundout by Starlin Castro, but for the most part Sanchez was in control. He was hitting spots with his fastball, drawing big swings and misses with his curveball, and working around trouble. The only real mistake he made on the night was a 3-2 fastball to Brian McCann in the 6th that drifted over the middle of the plate. McCann crushed it for a solo home run to right to tie the game and set the stage for Ellsbury's redemption.
Also credit the guys in front of him for their stage-setting performance as well. Chase Headley welcomed Brett Cecil to the game with a leadoff single in the 7th, then Cecil conveniently walked Castro on 4 pitches. This allowed Didi Gregorius to get down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up, and here came Ellsbury. He drew a full count against Cecil and went the other way with a 3-2 fastball, getting just enough of it to plop it in between the shortstop and left fielder for the go-ahead single. It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done and gave the bullpen the lead.
Oh yeah, the bullpen. All they did was throw 4 scoreless, hitless innings with 5 strikeouts. Barbato to Shreve to Betances to Miller. These guys are good and the Yankees are too. 4-2 in their first 6 games with Big Mike returning to the hill tonight.
- Tanaka was out after 5 mainly because he had thrown 92 pitches. He walked 4 and struck out 6 in those 5 innings and you're going to throw a lot of pitches when you do that, but Tanaka was inefficient with what he threw and nibbled too much. Every batter felt like he got to a 3-ball count. At times it definitely seemed like he was willing to throw strikes early to get ahead but not to finish, and he was nowhere close to the edges of the zone.. If you ask me, I think Tanaka needs to be more aggressive with 2 strikes, like a Bizarro World Michael Pineda.
- 2-hit nights for Ellsbury, McCann, and Headley. Mac and Headley also drew walks and Ellsbury stole a base. Didi doubled in addition to his sac bunt in the 7th. Seems like he does something constructive at the plate every game.
- McCann had another great night but it was a night that ended early. He took a foul tip off his left foot early in the game and played with a noticeable limp until Joe finally removed him in the 9th inning. McCann told trainers he was good when they came out to check on him, but it was strange to leave him in the game that long if the injury was serious enough to need MRIs and X-rays and all that.
- Johnny Barbato is legit as hell. He didn't strike anybody out last night, but he didn't shy away from hitters. He comes right at guys with that fastball and I didn't see anybody put a good swing on one and square it up in the inning. He should stick around for a while.
- Both long relievers should be available tonight and that's important. It means Joe can keep a shorter leash on Pineda while still having the option of resting certain guys. We'll see how he plays it.