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Yankees On The Brink After 2 Games Of Pitching Problems

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, right, leaves the game during the fifth inning in Game 3 of a baseball American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, right, leaves the game during the fifth inning in Game 3 of a baseball American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The final pitch of Masahiro Tanaka's seven years with the New York Yankees might have been a slider down the middle that Randy Arozarena crushed for another Rays homer in Game 3 of the AL Division Series.

SAN DIEGO: The final pitch of Masahiro Tanaka’s seven years with the New York Yankees might have been a slider down the middle that Randy Arozarena crushed for another Rays homer in Game 3 of the AL Division Series.

Although Tanaka and the Yankees aren’t officially done with the playoffs or each other, they’re on the brink after Tampa Bay’s 8-4 victory Wednesday night at Petco Park to put the Rays up 2-1 in the best-of-five series.

That errant slider was far from the only mistake made by the Yankees’ pitching staff during back-to-back losses to the Rays, who have forced their bitter AL East rivals into two must-win games in San Diego.

New York has yielded 15 runs and 21 hits in its two losses to Tampa Bay, including an outburst of impressive power from a team that ranked 14th in the majors in homers during the regular season. Michael Perezs two-run shot off Chad Green in the sixth was the seventh homer given up by the Yankees pitching staff in a 15-inning stretch.

What’s more, the Yankees’ overall ineffectiveness on the mound, combined with their curious decision to use rookie Deivi Garca as an opener in Game 2, have left New York’s pitching staff depleted heading into Game 4.

The Yankees on Thursday must begin with lefty Jordan Montgomery on the mound for his career postseason debut and his first action since Sept. 24 and against the opponent responsible for his worst start of the regular season, no less.

Montgomery, who had 5.11 ERA in first season back from Tommy John surgery, allowed four runs, five hits and two walks in just two-thirds of an inning in his start against Tampa Bay, a 5-2 loss on Sept 2. He gave hits to his first five batters, including a pair of two-run homers.

It’s hardly the ideal way for the Bronx Bombers to begin an elimination game, but not much else has worked on the mound since ace Gerrit Cole pitched Game 1.

Although the Yankees were squarely in the middle of the pack in many regular season pitching stats, one problem stood out: No playoff team gave up more than the 83 homers surrendered by New Yorks pitchers.

The Rays smacked four homers in Game 2 to overcome Giancarlo Stanton’s two homers for New York, and their 13-hit, three-homer attack in Game 3 was more than enough to overcome Stanton’s latest milestone blast in the eighth inning.

After Garca went only one inning to open Game 2 on Tuesday and was replaced by an ineffective J.A. Happ, who admitted he would have preferred to start, the Yankees were counting on a big, preferably lengthy start in Game 3 from Tanaka.

The Japanese veteran had been a strong contributor to previous Yankees postseason campaigns, but he hasn’t had it in his final playoff run before free agency.

Tanaka got tagged for six runs and five hits in four innings last week in his first game of this postseason, although that happened during a rainstorm in Cleveland.

Under postcard-perfect conditions in San Diego, Tanaka had another night to forget.

The Rays stacked their lineup with seven left-handed bats against the right-handed Tanaka, and he allowed eight hits and five runs while failing to get an out in the fifth inning. One pitch after Willy Adames drew a full-count walk on the Yankees through should have been called strike three by plate umpire Mark Carlson as part of a strike out, throw-’em-out double play, Tanaka gave up a three-run homer to Kevin Kiermaier in the fourth. Arozarena’s shot then chased Tanaka.

In Game 2, the Rays jumped on Garca and Happ for five runs and then added two more against the bullpen. In Game 3, Tampa Bay scored five runs against Tanaka and tacked on three more.

Add it all up, and the Yankees are in trouble no matter how powerful their own lineup might be.

What’s more, one night after CB Bucknor’s strike zone infuriated Yankees fans, home plate umpire Mark Carlson earned his own enmity in Game 3.

The Yankees weren’t happy when Luke Voit got to a 3-0 count with the bases loaded and two outs in the third. Voit took two called strikes from Morton that appeared to be outside the zone before grounding out.

Stanton then was called out on a third strike in the fourth inning that appeared to be perhaps on the very outer edge of the plate.

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