April 1: Three is justenough
Monday started out with the worst possible Not-April-Fools-Joke — Miguel Andujar and Giancarlo Stanton landing on the Injured List — but ended on a much better note with the Yankees gutting through a 3-1 win over the Tigers.
Milestone alert! This was the team’s 500th regular season win at the current Yankee Stadium. Those 500 wins are 13 more than any other team has at their home ballpark since 2009.
Gary Sanchez gave the Yankees an early lead with a solo homer in a the second inning, a monster blast that went 417 feet to straightaway center. It was his second longball in as many games, the first time he’s gone deep in back to back games since August 17-18, 2017. That’s right — he didn’t homer in consecutive games at all last year.
Brett Gardner added an insurance run in the fifth with a solo shot to right-center. The Yankees are now 26-4 since 2017 (including playoffs) when Gardy goes yardy. Gardner still has never hit a true opposite-field home run in his career; the closest he came was a blast over the wall slightly to the left of dead-center at Tropicana Field on May 11, 2015.
Domingo German was the star, pitching the definition of an “effectively wild” game with seven strikeouts, five walks, one hit and one run (unearned) allowed in five innings. Coupled with his brilliant six-inning, no-hit start last May, German delivered this #FunFact: He became the first pitcher in Yankees history with multiple starts of at least five innings and one or fewer hits allowed within his first 30 career MLB games.
Terrific Tanaka, Terrible Offense
The Yankees trotted out a lineup that included three players who were supposed to be in Scranton this week, and the result was hardly a shocker — a 3-1 loss that included a pathetic offense and little support for another brilliant outing by Masahiro Tanaka.
Still, the Yankees had a chance to win, entering the ninth with the game knotted at one, because of the excellence of Tanaka. He scattered eight hits, struck out seven with no walks, and wiggled out of a few tough jams in coughing up just one run over 6 2/3 innings. Combined with his awesome Opening Day start, Tanaka earned our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series award:
He is the second Yankees pitcher ever to begin the season throwing back-to-back starts allowing no more than one earned run with five-plus strikeouts and no walks in each game (the other guy was Kevin Brown in 2004).
Tanaka filled up the strike zone, throwing 63 of his 87 pitches (72%) for strikes, and his command was stellar in netting 15 called strikes, freezing several Tigers on pitches in the middle of the plate:
Tanaka’s effort was wasted by the Yankees cold bats and a ninth inning implosion by Aroldis Chapman. While the fireballer’s velocity was up from his first two appearances of the season, it didn’t matter as his command was off and he got torched for two runs and three hits by the Tigers. We’ve seen Chapman struggle at times in pinstripes — but not to this extent.
The last time he allowed at least two runs and three hits and took the loss in a game was Sept. 7, 2012 in his first season as a closer with the Reds.
Breezy day in the Bronx
The Yankees six-game season-opening homestand ended in the most miserable fashion, as they dropped the rubber game of the series to the Tigers, 2-1, and were the victims of a couple awful franchise records in doing so.
They struck out 18 times, the most ever in a nine-inning game by any Yankees team. They now have 65 strikeouts for the season, the highest total through six games in franchise history. Thirteen of those punchouts were by Tigers starter Matthew Boyd, who also limited them to just one run in 6 1/3 innings. Boyd is the first left-hander to strike out at least 13 Yankees and allow no more than one run in a regular-season game at Yankee Stadium (old or new). The only southpaw pitcher to do that in a playoff game in the Bronx was Cliff Lee in Game 3 of the 2010 ALCS.
The one of the few reasons for optimism in the Yankees disastrous 2-4 record has been their starting pitching, which has a 2.32 ERA and has given up one earned run or fewer five times. Only two other Yankee pitching staffs have begun the season with their starters allowing no more than one earned run in five of the first six games — it also happened last year and in 2002.
Overall, they’ve allowed 20 runs, the 33rd time in franchise history they’ve given up 20 or fewer runs in the first six games; twice before they also were below .500 thru six games: 1964 and 1977. The 1964 team went on win the AL pennant and lose in the World Series while the 1977 team was World Series champs.
Some more perspective (don’t jump off the cliff yet?) … This is the sixth time in the Wild Card era that the Yankees have started 2-4 or worse. The results of the previous five seasons it happened:
Missed Playoffs – 1 (2013)
Made Playoffs – 4 (2017, 2015, 2006, 1998)
Won Division – 2 (2006, 1998)
Won World Series – 1 (1998)