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Rays vs. Yankees, game two recap: Tanaka nearly perfect as Rays drop another

“Strikes and gutters, ups and downs.”

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

After a flurry of roster moves over the past 48 hours, the Rays looked to bounce back after a gut-wrenching loss last night in the Bronx. Featuring a new power bat, and a new-look bullpen, the Rays had every reason to have confidence on Friday, only boosted by the fact that they had owned Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees’ starter, to this point in the season.

But then the game actually started.

Nearly Perfect Tanaka

They were all over Tanaka in both of his previous starts against them this season, including opening day in St. Petersburg. Over those two starts, they put up at least six earned runs against him, and he never got past the third inning.

Regression, or in this case progression, to the mean is a cruel mistress.

Tanaka went 17 up and 17 down over 5.2 innings until Adeiny Hechavarria ended his bid for perfection with a single up the middle with two outs in the sixth.

But man, did Tanaka make the Rays look foolish, both before and after Hech’s single.

He had every pitch working in his arsenal. He has never been a pitcher to overpower hitters, and that trend certainly continued, as his velocity rarely touched 92 mph on the gun, but tonight’s performance was all about that deceptive movement that his pitches have and his ability to mix and match his repertoire to keep hitters off balance. Tanaka pitched eight innings and struck out 14 Rays hitters, a career-high for the Japanese ace.

His slider and splitter were his bread and butter all night long, starting in the first when he struck out the side and continued through to the eighth, when he did so again. In between strikeouts, Rays’ bats routinely rolled over weak groundballs and mishit fly balls, making life easy for the Yankees’ defense.

It was definitely a pitching gem thrown by Tanaka, and over the course of a season, every team has those games where the opposing pitcher is just on fire. Those games are a lot easier to swallow when you win the games (like last nights’ collapse) that you’re supposed to.

“Obviously, you’re not a golfer.”

I think I’m most excited to have Lucas Duda in a Rays’ uniform solely because of the chance to use The Big Lebowski references, and I know I’m not alone in that regard.

Cue “His Dudeness, the Duder, or El Duderino.”

He didn’t take long to make an impression on his new teammates, tallying the only blemish on Tanaka’s line with a deep blast to right field in the seventh inning. Tanaka hung a breaking ball and The Dude gave it to the fans in the bleachers in right. He added a couple of nice defensive plays at first, starting in place of an ailing Logan Morrison, to cap a solid first night in blue and white.

In the wise words of one Mr. Lebowski, “The Dude Abides.”

Final Thoughts:

  • Austin Pruitt didn’t pitch poorly over his five innings, but he did leave a couple of mistakes out over the plate, most notably Clint Frazier’s three-run bomb to left-center.
  • Aaron Judge is a monster. That homer he hit is a deep fly out for most other MLB hitters. Just, wow.
  • Can we go back to winning now?

Sign Off:

“This aggression will not stand, man.” -The Dude