Friday night wasn’t a complete loss.
Masahiro Tanaka looked like his October version, tossing five shutout innings to give the Yankees’ starting rotation a needed boost.
That’s where the positives end. The Yankees usual potent bats couldn’t solve the Rays’ deep bullpen and fell, 1-0, to open this four-game series at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Adam Ottavino’s wildness was the difference. The right-hander walked two of the first three hitters he faced in the home eighth inning, and his wild pitch, enabling the go-ahead run to advance to third, set the stage for Michael Perez’s sacrifice fly.
The Yankees (9-4) managed just two hits and went homerless for the first time this season. Chaz Roe went the final six outs for the victory and retired the Yankees in order in the ninth. Gleyber Torres made the final out, flying out to shallow center field, and is in the midst of an 0-for-24 slump. He’s not the only Yankee struggling. Giancarlo Stanton is 2-for-21 going back to the end of July and Aaron Hicks is hitting .188.
After starting 8-1, the Yankees have dropped three of four. This time, though, starting pitching wasn’t the problem, as it had been recently.
In his second outing of the year, Tanaka was brilliant, retiring the final 13 batters he faced and 15 of 16 overall. Only Yandy Diaz reached against the right-hander with a first-inning single. Of his 59 pitches, 44 were strikes. He was frequently ahead in the count, striking out five and not walking a batter in the five-inning, one-hitter.
The Yankees, meanwhile, couldn’t do anything offensively. They didn’t get a hit until DJ LeMahieu’s single in the sixth off reliever Pete Fairbanks. Blake Snell went the first three innings without allowing a hit, but he was lifted after throwing 59 pitches. The 2018 Cy Young Award winner is still working up his pitch count after undergoing elbow surgery last July.
The Yankees did have chances. In the seventh, they loaded the bases without a hit, but Gary Sanchez struck out, continuing his shaky start to the season. In the eighth, Mike Tauchman led off with a double, but he was thrown out trying to advance to third on a LeMahieu grounder to short.