Game 47: NYY vs. TB — #TanakaTime & a “Ducky” home run

Attendance at the Trop tonight: 14,697 It should be noted that capacity is technically 40,473, but most upper level seats are covered by a tarp during the regular season, reducing the number of available seating by about 9,000 seats. This makes actual general capacity, or what they consider a “sold out game” at 31,042 as they had on Opening Day this April.

And (in a completely unscientific observation, based on crowd response alone) Yankee fans tonight: about 10,000. (About the capacity at Steinbrenner Field, if you must know.)

No, seriously. If you closed your eyes and ignored the strange echoing sounds of the domed stadium, you’d swear you were in the Bronx with the amount of cheering for the Yankees, their outs, their runs. (And only once were the Rays fans anywhere decently loud enough to steal the volume — more below.)

I think it’s because Steinbrenner Field and the Yankees play Spring Training here in the Tampa Bay area that there’s a really big Yankee fanbase. I can’t remember anywhere outside of New York where you’re more likely to run into a Yankee fan than a hometown team fan. And it’s also rather acceptable to be a Yankee fan, where in other places like Chicago or Boston or even San Diego it’s seen as something that’s a little odd or even risks being razzed or challenged.

Anyway, the Yankees are at Tropicana Field this weekend to face the Rays. And Masahiro Tanaka got the start tonight against one of the Rays’ better pitchers, and Tanaka just dominated from start to finish tonight. He threw a very efficient 82 pitches, not giving up a hit or base runner until the 5th inning, and even then only 2 allowed hits and 4 strikeouts overall. He kept the Rays at a standstill, scoreless, often hitless, and just off the bases for most of the game.

Actually, the coolest part of Tanaka’s entire outing was in that 5th inning. That lead-off hitter/runner was at 2nd after a fielding error allowed another runner on base. But then the next batter hit a grounder back to the infield grass, which Tanaka fielded himself, and instead of the standard play (throwing it to 1st to get that runner), Tanaka ran down the runner between 2nd and 3rd and tagged him out instead. As if to erase the earlier allowed hit. Plus, there was Tanaka’s most amazing “game face”.

Plus, the Yankees gave him some run support tonight. The Rays starter held the Yankees to a couple of measly hits until the 6th inning. With 1 out, Gardner worked a walk and then made it all the way to 3rd on a blown pick-off attempt. Another fielding error allowed Beltran to make it to 1st safely as the Rays’ defense was more concerned with keeping Gardner at 3rd than Beltran making it to base safely. Brian McCann hit into a force ground out at 2nd, which also scored Gardner. And it would be Alex Rodriguez’s big 2-run home run straight toward that “Ducky’s” sign in left-center field to put the Yankees safely in the lead.

Carlos Beltran added the extra cushion in the 8th with a 2-out solo home run. Both these veteran power-hitters (Beltran and Rodriguez) look to share the DH role some this year, and it’s no wonder. They’re hitting. A lot. And that’s okay.

After Tanaka, the Yankees opted to go to Miller for the 8th and then Yates in the 9th. After 2 outs, Yates gave up the lone Rays’ run — a solo home run (the only time I thought there might be some representation for the Rays in the stands). This put the Yankees into a save position, so they brought in Chapman. The first batter technically struck out, but a passed ball allowed the runner to reach 1st base (a rule I’m still not fond of for this very reason). Then the next batter really did strike out and actually ended the game.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees.

Like I said before, the Yankees seem to do well on the road. Let’s hope this continues.

But before I’m done, Tanaka really owes his win tonight to some killer defense. I mean, there was nowhere the Yankees weren’t able to track down a ball — the outfield, the infield, foul territory, pop-ups, wherever — they were just on point all night. (Video evidence: Ackley #1Gardner, Castro, and Ackley #2 — though truthfully, everyone made some great contribution on defense tonight, even Tanaka himself as I noted above.)

Go Yankees!

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