It was a rather inauspicious start for the new look New York Yankees on Sunday. A team that features a collection of promising young position players, the biggest question coming into the season was the viability of the Yankees starting rotation. Little did anyone think that those problems would start with Mashahiro Tanaka.
Tanaka who gave up only one earned run in 23 innings this spring, was downright bad against the pesky Rays on Sunday. He couldn't locate, and his fastball had no zip to it. Result the Rays teed-off.
You knew Tanaka was in trouble early when he gave up a single to Corey Dickerson and a double to Kevin Kiemaier just seven pitches into the ball game. After an unrecognizable Evan Longoria hit a sac fly to right to bring home the game's first run, Tanaka got into more trouble. Brad Miller singled, Steven Souza walked on four pitches, and Logan Morrison slapped a single through the hole to drive in two runs to push Tampa Bay to a 3-0 advantage.
Unfortunately for Tanaka and the Yankees, his troublesome first inning had little to do with first inning jitters. Tanaka just didn't have it. Longoria's two run blast off Tanaka with two out in the second inning confirmed that. Logan Morrison's solo blast an inning later sealed the Yankees fate.
Tanaka was pulled with two outs in the third inning. He allowed seven runs on eight hits with two walks and three strikeouts. He became the first Yankees starter to allow seven plus runs and two homers in an opening day start.
Aaron Judge: There was one good story to come out of the Yankees Opening Day defeat and that was the hitting of rookie Aaron Judge. Judge crushed a RBI double to left in the top of the third inning to get the Yankees on the scoreboard for the first time. Judge hit in the eighth spot in the batting order as Joe Girardi wants to ease him into the lineup. Swings like that however only prove that it won't be long before Judge ends up in the clean-up spot.
Yankees bullpen: The Yankees pen has been picked by many to be one of the strongest in the majors this year. Give the unit credit, they did their job on Sunday. The combination of Tommy Lane, Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder, and Chasen Shreve held Tampa Bay to five hits over the final 6.1 innings of play. They kept the Rays off the scoreboard and gave New York every opportunity to crawl back into the game.
Turning Point: The true turning point of Sunday's game occurred in the top of the seventh when Tampa Bay ace, Chris Archer was able to jam Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez into a inning-ending ground out with the bases loaded. Sanchez worked the count to 2-2 before Archer was able to fool him on a changeup, and the catcher gently bounced out. The Yankees would not challenge again.
Speaking of Sanchez, he had a rough day at the plate overall. In addition to grounding out with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, Sanchez went 0-for-5 with a strikeout. More importantly he was 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position.
Opening Day Horrors: The 7-3 loss on Sunday marked the sixth consecutive opening day loss for the Yankees that dates back to 2012, when they lost to ... you guessed it ... Tampa Bay. New York has also opened 0-1 in eight of the last nine seasons.