Sunday, September 11, 2016
The Baby Bombers deserve plenty of credit for powering the Yankees back into the postseason chase, but Masahiro Tanaka’s late-season surge might just be the most meaningful development taking place in the Bronx.
Tanaka stepped into the ace role again on Saturday as he recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts without a walk as the Yankees grabbed their seventh straight win with a 5-1 victory over the Rays.
“I feel that we’re on a really good roll,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “I think we have younger guys up, and the new guys are providing positive energy into the clubhouse and the team. I think that has a lot to do with it.”
The 27-year-old Tanaka saved his best work for the second half, helping a Yankees club that remains one game off the pace for the second American League Wild Card spot. Tanaka scattered five hits over 7 1/3 innings, improving to 5-0 in his past six starts as the Yankees moved to three games behind the Red Sox in the AL East.
“We’re not thinking too far ahead,” said Gary Sanchez, who hit his 13th homer in the sixth inning and nearly slugged another one in the eighth, lifting a sacrifice fly as the Rays tried to intentionally walk him. “We come here and work hard. Every time, we want to win on that day, and that’s the focus right now.”
This is how ridiculous things are getting, Gary Sanchez nearly hit a three-run home run off of an intentional ball, as the Tampa Bay reliever got nervous and missed his spot with his pitch and it ended up close enough to the plate for Sanchez to crush it, but it died just short of the wall. The look on Kevin Cash’s face was priceless. I know a lot of it is having a shitty team to manage, but boy, Cash has not looked too good this series. It’s like he’s just checked out.
Anyhow, an outstanding performance by Masahiro Tanaka and great games from Jacoby Ellsbury and Gary Sanchez. Adam Warren came in in the 8th inning with the game 3-1 and a runner on first due to a Tanaka HBP and then promptly plunked the first batter he faced, which is just ludicrous. He then got out of the inning by getting Evan Longoria to ground into an inning-ending double play, so all is forgiven, Adam! Joe Girardi tried to give Tyler Clippard a day off, but couldn’t help but bring him in with a four-run lead and a runner on first with two outs in the ninth. In all seriousness, it wasn’t a big deal, as it was just one out, but Girardi probably should have given it one more batter.
The Yankees are now tied with the Detroit Tigers at one game behind the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild card and are now three games back of the Boston Red Sox for the AL East itself. The problem, of course, remains that there are just too many teams involved, including teams with some easy schedules like the Toronto Blue Jays and the Detroit Tigers. This is still an uphill battle, but hey, seven straight wins should be celebrated no matter what else happens in the future. Luis Cessa goes Sunday afternoon as the Yankees attempt a sweep of the Rays.
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