Rays Have No Answers For Tanaka In Shutout Loss

New York starter Tanaka goes the distance in victory over Rays

The New York Yankees’ bullpen, even before adding Zach Britton, has been one of the most formidable in baseball and perhaps the highlight of a loaded ballclub.  On Tuesday night, they got a night off as Masahiro Tanaka threw a complete game shutout and the Yankees evened this week’s series against the Rays with a 4-0 victory.

“It might look efficient,” said Tanaka through a translator after the game, “but that’s kind of something that’s not in my control.  What I was doing was really controlling the ball well.  I feel like I was able to do that and I think that was efficient.”

Brett Gardner scored the first run of the night for the Yankees, coming around to score on a Didi Gregorius grounder to short after leading off the game with a single.  It was the first time in five games at Tropicana Field this season that the New York Yankees were the first team on the scoreboard.  They didn’t need much behind starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Tanaka was in rare form on Tuesday night.  He kept his pitch count manageable throughout, pounding the strike zone and daring the Rays to hit it.  For the most part, they could not.  The Rays did not get their first hit of the game until the fifth inning, a single by C.J. Cron.  Cron was the only runner they had in scouring position throughout the night.  He got there twice, getting a double in the seventh.

The shutout puts an exclamation point on a real hot streak for Masahiro Tanaka.  Unbeaten in his last twelve starts, Tanaka has regained the form that made him a sensation early in his MLB career and the Yankees are reaping the rewards.  New York is 9-3 in Tanaka’s last twelve starts, a span in which Tanaka has a 3.47 ERA and a 6-0 record to his credit.

Miguel Andujar had two runs scored on the night, one in the seventh and one in the top of the ninth to add another insurance run.  The bottom of the order for the Yankees delivered runs batted in, as 8-hitter Neil Walker drove in Andujar, and 9-hitter Austin Romine had two RBI on the night.

19,579 were on hand on Tuesday night to watch the Yankees’ shutout victory.  For Tanaka, the shutout was the third of his career and his first since April 2017, a start in Boston.  In fact, all three of his shutouts have come on the road.

Positive return for Chirinos

Yonny Chirinos got the start on Tuesday night, his first big league appearance since April 28, when he left a start in Boston due to injury.  Coming into that start on April 28, Chirinos had earned a spot in the starting rotation, not as an opener but a starter.  He picked up right where he left off in that regard, keeping a very efficient pitch count to get into the seventh inning.  Chirinos hadn’t thrown more than 70 pitches in any of the minor league appearances he had made in his road back to St. Pete, but he looked like he never left on Tuesday night.  Chirinos went 6.2 innings on Tuesday night, striking out six.  His only walk was intentional and thus free of pitches.  He left on the hook for a potential loss, but in the end his start will go down as a Quality Start, and there isn’t much more to ask from a pitcher who was coming off an injury and some time in the minors.  The 6.2 inning start was the longest of Chirinos’ young career, beating out his previous best by an inning.

Manager Kevin Cash said after the game that he thought Chirinos was “outstanding.  I really did. … Yonny got us much deeper in the ballgame than maybe we were anticipating before the game started.”

The Rays could not possibly have needed the start more.  Chirinos, after all, was filling in for Blake Snell, missing a start due to shoulder fatigue.  Snell is expected to make his next start, but with rumors swirling around Chris Archer and Nathan Eovaldi it is clear that Chirinos’ presence will be needed to help even out the rotation, success of the opener aside.

What’s ahead

The Rays and Yankees will finish up their series with a 12:10 Businessman’s Special.  Nathan Eovaldi, himself a former Yankee, will get the ball for Tampa Bay in the rubber game.  He’ll be going up against Luis Cessa (1-1, 3.00), who will be making his seventh start of the season.  A win on Wednesday would make the Rays 6-3 in their last nine series dating back to June 22.

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Tim Williams has been covering sports since his days as a student at Northeastern University covering events such as the Beanpot. In the thirteen years since, he has covered college hockey, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. A native of the Tampa Bay area, Tim has returned home after living much of his life in the northeast, including sixteen years in the Boston area. These days the Managing Editor of Sports Talk Florida can be found on Florida's golf courses when he's not working.