Almost 40,000 people showed up for Masashiro Tanaka’s debut in the Bronx, and with a sole exception, he proved pretty much Tanaka-esque. 101 pitches, 7 innings, 7 hits and 3 runs allowed and the first walk by a Yankee starter since last Thursday in Houston. But what made it more Tanaka was the 10 amazing strikeouts he dealt the Orioles, and those, combined with the 8 from his start in Toronto last weekend, now sets the record for most strikeouts by a starter in their first two MLB games with 18.
Now, those 3 runs came tumbling through the 2nd inning. Two singles set the stage for a pitch left a little too high in the strike zone to find a rocket shot 3-run home run out to left field. Tanaka didn’t let anyone else by him, and he was greatly helped by the team in the process. Like in the 6th inning, when the quick three outs came from a line drive to Gardner in center field, a sliding catch by Soriano in left, and a great bouncing stop and quick throw out by Roberts at 2nd.
And to help give Tanaka a no-decision, the Yankees decided to even things up. In the bottom of the 2nd, leading off the inning, Carlos Beltran properly earned his pinstripes with his first solo home run as a Yankee this season, a long homer into the second deck past right field. Two outs later, Kelly Johnson shoots his own solo homer to add to the score. Then in the 4th, Beltran, on with a lead-off double, went on to score on Alfonso Soriano’s ground out to tie up the game 3-3.
And there they sat. Thornton and Warren splitting the 8th inning and keeping the Orioles hitless and scoreless. It was just 3 outs before the Yankees could do something every fan loves to see (the “walk-off” something to win it).
But then there was trouble.
The back-up closer Shawn Kelley (can I interject that I already hate using the term “back-up” because of the current injury list?) really struggled through his 9th inning. A lead-off double, a single, and an RBI single to start the inning, and with no outs; things were looking grim. Another single loaded the bases as the heart of the Orioles lineup were lined up for action. A sacrifice fly scored another run, before somehow Kelley managed to strikeout their best hitter and get the next one to ground out. 30 pitches, 4 hits, 2 extra runs later. The score was 5-3 Orioles.
So Soriano gets things started with a solid double and moves to 3rd on Johnson’s single. (Is anyone else loving Johnson’s offensive spark right now?) Soriano scores on Roberts sacrifice fly, making it 5-4 Orioles. And while the sight of Solarte has been a sigh of relief lately, he proved he is also human and grounded into a double play to end the game right there.
Game over. Baltimore wins 5-4, plus they take the series 2-1. Better luck next time.
And that’s the great part about being so early in the season — there’s always a next time. Perhaps, the Yankees are storing up the greatness for this next 4-game home stand against the Red Sox. And then again, there’s always next time. ‘Tis the way it is with baseball (and so often with life) that when things just don’t go the way you want, you got to pick it all up, learn from your mistakes, capitalize on your successes, develop everything in between, and just try again next time. Baseball is a game of failure, yes, but it’s those that keep getting up, wipe the dirt off, and then push on for one more play, one more out, one more game that end up in Cooperstown.