Masahiro Tanaka had a somewhat bad night. And yet, he still ended up with the win. That was partly due to the Yankees’ surging offense again and partly due to the really sloppy pitching by the Rays. The host team certainly didn’t put up much of a fight (save a single inning), much to the chagrin of the small hometown fan base represented at the Trop tonight. As usual, a good portion of the Tampa Bay area crowd were Yankee fans.
Okay, weird stuff first. So, except for the 3rd inning, Masahiro Tanaka actually had a pretty good night — 70 pitches in those other 5 innings, 3 allowed hits, 2 allowed walks, and 4 strikeouts. So for 29 pitches in the 3rd, Tanaka did the unheard of — gave up 4 solo home runs to the Rays in a single inning. A first-pitch lead-off home run got the Rays on the board, before worked his way through a strikeout and a ground out. Then he gave up back-to-back-to-back home runs before getting out with a line drive out. Tanaka has never given up 4 home runs in a game ever, let alone in a single inning, and it set a club record for the Rays.
Weird trivia bit: Tanaka joins an odd little group of Yankee pitchers that allowed 4 homers in a single inning — Chase Wright (in 2007), Hall of Famer Randy Johnson (in 2005), Scott Sanderson (in 1992), and the great Catfish Hunter (in the infamous 1977 season).
Adam Warren tossed a scoreless 7th and came on for the 8th. After getting his only strikeout of his outing, Warren gave up a solo home run. So with the Rays cutting into the Yankees’ lead, the Yankees rotated through Layne and Clippard for the next two outs of the inning. Holder threw a beautiful scoreless 9th inning to keep things steady for the Yankees.
Let’s be honest: the Rays had just an awful night, helmed primarily by the pitching staff. Their starter struggled from the very beginning, throwing a 34-pitch 1st inning. Gardner led things off with a single and Ellsbury worked a walk. They each scored on singles by Gary Sanchez and Brian McCann. And there was still no outs yet. So they finally got a couple outs before Ronald Torreyes got in on the action with an RBI single to score Sanchez. Not a bad start for the Yankees.
And for some reason, the Rays’ starter came out for more torture in the 2nd inning. Solano and Gardner singled and moved into scoring position on a ground out. Then Gary Sanchez hit his 18th home run, a 3-run blast to shove the Yankees deeply into the lead. Once McCann and Teixeira were on base with hits, the Rays realized they weren’t going to get much out of their starter and went to the bullpen. Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly tagged on one more run for the inning, but that reliever was able to stop the bleeding through the 3rd inning as well.
The Rays brought in a long-term reliever, who allowed some hits, but really kept the Yankees from doing much with them until the 6th inning. With 2 outs, it was Gary Sanchez to hit his 19th career home run to add to the Yankees lead. (More on this below.) Yes, that’s insane, and the small crowd at the Trop (even the Rays fans) kind of went crazy. Who is this kid?
The Yankees didn’t do much in the 7th or 8th innings, thanks in part to a few of the Rays’ better relievers. But they certainly took the 9th inning reliever to task. Gregorius led-off that inning with a single, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on Mason Williams’ single. Donovan Solano hit his first home run this season, scoring Williams and just solidifying the Yankees dominance in this game.
Final score: 11-5 Yankees.
The last time the Yankees allowed 5 or more home runs and still won the game by 5 or more runs was May 22, 1930, with a final score of 20-13 over the Philadelphia Athletics (the second game of a doubleheader, too).
So, tonight, the Yankees scored 11 runs off 17 hits tonight. That is some bad pitching, augmented by some sloppy defense. And this is a shame for several reasons. First, the power-hitting section of the Rays’ line-up has a ridiculous number of home runs this season (138 for their top 6 hitters, an average of 23 for those 6). They even added to their totals tonight in that 3rd inning, and actually all their runs tonight were oddly off solo home runs. Second, they really should be better overall. It’s why you can’t rely solely on statistics and “on-paper”. The intangibles mean and affect everything.
Okay, let’s talk about Gary Sanchez once again. So, Sanchez is the fastest player in all of MLB recorded history to hit his first 19 home runs (in just 45 games), which beats the Boston Braves’ Wally Berger, who hit his 19 home runs in 51 games in 1930. Sanchez also is beating Ruth’s 1927 record in per at-bat rate — Ruth’s record was 1 homer in every 9 at-bats, Sanchez currently sits at 1 in every 8.7 at-bats.
For your amusement:
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 22, 2016
Comparisons have been made to everyone from Ruth to Mantle to Bench. Personally, I think he’s just carving out who Gary Sanchez is. He’s even started a trending hashtag (#IAmGary or #ElGary). And being 23 years old and just starting out in his career, I’d say he’s right on track to find out who Gary Sanchez is and who he will be.