YANKEES 4, RAYS 2
The baseball diamond is usually the proving ground but sometimes events off the field greatly overshadow what occurs in between the lines. Tuesday was one of those days.
While the New York thoroughly frustrated Tampa Bay and got two doubles and three RBIs from Brian McCann to run their season record against the Rays to 5-0, the team learned that ace starter Masahiro Tanaka was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Tanaka, 26, is experiencing tendinitis in his right wrist and tightness in his right forearm and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the right-hander will not throw for at least seven to 10 days and will miss a month at a minimum.
For the Yankees this is a major blow to a rotation that helped push the team into first place in the American League East. Tanaka, who felt the discomfort a day after pitching a bullpen session on Sunday and reported it to the team on Tuesday, becomes the third Yankee starter on the disabled list along with left-hander Chris Capuano and right-hander Ivan Nova.
Cashman told reporters that Tanaka’s current injury is unrelated to the partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow he sustained last July.
“It has nothing to do with my elbow, so that’s something that’s out of the question for me,” Tanaka told reporters through an interpreter.
Tanaka is 2-1 with a 3.22 ERA in four starts.
As for the game, the Yankees used right-hander Chase Whitley (1-0) as a spot starter ostensibly to give Tanaka an extra day of rest and he kept wriggling out jams so well over his five innings that he earned a victory.
The Yankees spotted him an early 2-0 lead in the first inning as Jacoby Ellsbury used his speed to manufacture a run. He singled off starter Jake Odorizzi (2-2), stole second and advanced to third when catcher Rene Rivera’s throw to get him at second trickled into center-field.
Brett Gardner then scored him on an infield groundout.
Mark Teixeira followed Gardner with a double and McCann, who entered the game 6-for-15 (.400) with two home runs in his career against Odorizzi, touched him for an RBI double to score Teixeira.
The Rays halved the lead in the third inning after Steven Souza Jr. worked a one-out walk and scored on a RBI double by Asdrubal Cabrera.
But the Yankees added two more runs in the fifth on an infield single by Ellsbury, a single by Gardner that advanced Ellsbury to third and, after Gardner stole second, McCann scored both of them one out later on an opposite-field double.
Odorizzi was charged with four runs on nine hits and no walks with four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
Whitley only pitched one perfect inning – the first. But he was able to keep the Rays from getting any closer by escaping trouble Houdini style.
In the second, the Rays loaded the bases with one out but Whitley retired Tim Beckham on a shallow fly ball to left and Rivera hit into a force out.
In the third after Cabrera’s RBI double, Whitley uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Cabrera to take third. However, Whitley struck out both Evan Longoria and James Loney to end the threat.
In the fourth the Rays got a one-out double from Kevin Kiermaier but Whitley retired Beckham on a groundout and he struck out Rivera.
Whitley gave up just one run on six hits and one walk with six strikeouts in five innings of work.
The Rays did add a run in the sixth off left-hander Chasen Shreve on a leadoff walk to Loney and a RBI triple to Logan Forsythe. But Shreve did strike out Kiermaier before he gave way to right-hander Esmil Rogers.
Keeping with the theme of the evening, Rogers stranded Forsythe at third by striking out Beckham and getting Rivera on a groundout.
The Rays were a pathetic 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position an left 10 men on base.
Right-hander Chris Martin pitched the ninth inning because Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller had been used in the past two games and he ended up pitching a scoreless frame to earn his first career major-league save.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 13-8 and the Rays fell to 11-10 and they are two games back in the division tied with the Boston Red Sox.
- Whitley’s start does not appear as if it will be a singular event with Tanaka on the disabled list. Although the right-hander allowed one run and seven base-runners in five innings, he battled through 93 pitches to hand the lead over to the bullpen. Whitley made 12 starts for the Yankees last season and eventually was shifted to the bullpen. He ended the season 4-3 with a 5.23 ERA. But he had an excellent spring (0-1, 1.17 ERA in seven games – two of them starts) and he was 2-0 with 2.12 ERA in three starts with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- McCann has been like a one-man wrecking crew against the Rays and Odorizzi this season. In his past three starts against the Rays, McCann is 7-for-12 (.583) a home run, a triple, two doubles and three singles with six RBIs. In his two starts against Odorizzi this season, McCann is 5-for-6 (.833) with a triple and two doubles and five RBIs.
- Ellsbury was 3-for-4 with two stolen bases and two runs scored in the game. Since April 18, Ellsbury is 14-for-39 (.359) with a homer, three RBIs and nine runs scored. He also has stolen five bases. The 10-game hot streak has raised his average from .256 to .308.
On a night when a call-up from the minors pitches five solid innings and the bullpen protects the lead with its four top pitchers (Betances, Miller, David Carpenter and Justin Wilson) unavailable to pitch, you can’t really complain about much. The Yankees are 10-2 since they began the season 3-6. Enough said.
The Yankees optioned backup infielder Gregorio Petit to Scranton on Tuesday in order to make room on the roster for Whitley. Petit, 29, was 5-for-24 (.208) with no home runs and five RBIs in 13 games. That temporarily leaves the Yankees with 13 pitchers but they will have to make a roster move to replace. Infielder Jose Pirela, who suffered a concussion late in spring training was just sent out to Double-A Trenton on a rehab assignment and veteran Brendan Ryan has not resumed baseball activities after suffering a calf strain late in the spring. That means the Yankees would have to move somebody off the 40-man roster if they want call up another middle infielder.
The Yankees will try to sweep the Rays for the second time this season on Wednesday.
Right-hander Michael Pineda (3-0, 3.86 ERA), who was originally scheduled to open the Red Sox series on Friday, will now replace Tanaka for this start. Pineda, 26, yielded just one run on five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings on Friday against the New York Mets. He defeated the Rays on April 19.
Left-hander Drew Smyly (0-0, 3.86) will make his second start for the Rays after coming off the disabled list. Smyly, 25, gave up two runs on four hits with no walks in 4 2/3 innings in a no decision against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.
Game-time will be 1 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.