Today the New York Yankees took on the Washington Nationals in Viera, Florida at Space Coast Stadium. On the mound was Masahiro Tanaka preparing for his hopeful Opening Day start, and for the Nationals, Stephen Strasburg.
The Nationals got going on Masahiro Tanaka early as he struggled a little in the first inning, something that has been a known issue with him in the past. Anthony Rendon sent a double over Chris Denorfia’s head in right field. Ben Revere who was on third from a single, balk, then tagged up, would score easily. Denorfia did seem to misjudge the ball a little as the sun and wind were factors throughout the day, but it wouldn’t be Tanaka’s only bad inning today.
The Yankees would threaten in the third inning to try and take the lead. Denorfia, Ronald Torreyes and Brett Gardner would all single to load the bases. However, an Aaron Hicks strikeout and Dustin Ackley double-play ball would end the Yankees’ attack. The bottom of the third is where Tanaka would lose all control and pretty much put the game out of the Yankees’ hands.
The telling tale for this inning would be Stephen Drew hitting a home run off of Tanaka to start the inning. Revere, Rendon, and Bryce Harper would reach base on two singles and a walk. Following that, Ryan Zimmerman would hit a slow grounder that would turn into an infield single on a tough throw to first that went over Tanaka’s head. After a single, double and home run, the Nats would eventually build their lead to 7-0. Tanaka came out to pitch the fourth and gave up another double, but would leave without letting in any other runs.
It’s obvious Tanaka struggled today, mostly with his control. Anything that was supposed to be low was high and the Nationals were taking advantage of nearly every missed ball. Of course you can say over and over again how this is just spring training, but that doesn’t mean you want to see your Opening Day starter give up seven runs on nine hits. It’s simply a day Tanaka just needs to forget and move on. There’s nothing else he can do. Once again, it’s just Spring Training, but it really goes to show how much the Yankees need another arm in this rotation even if they’re a four or five starter. James Kaprielian is a very hopeful arm, but rushing him will do the Yankees no good and realistically he won’t be ready until mid-season 2017, at the earliest.
Beyond Tanaka’s innings the game got quiet for a little as the Yankees’ bullpen came in. Nick Goody, Luis Cessa, and Johnny Barbato all had clean innings. However, the bottom of the eighth inning got even uglier. Anthony Swarzak gave the infield two grounders and both were bobbled for errors and followed those with a walk. With the bases loaded, another error would let all three runs score on a short single to right as Cesar Puello misread the ball and let it roll past him. Swarzak did give up some hits, but in no way should those runs all be put on him. Nick Rumbelow came in with a runner on and the madness wouldn’t stop. A short single hit in the same spot to Puello was again bobbled and the runner scored from second on the error. So on the inning that’d be four errors and five runs.
Aside from all that happened in the third and eighth innings there were some minor takeaways. Rob Refsnyder had a sharp day at third base. As for the backup catching spot, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez both had quiet days. Romine went 1-3 with two strikeouts and a double (his fourth of the spring) and Sanchez went 0-4. Neither of those guys have really stuck out in the competition, but at this point you’d have to go with Romine. Sanchez has struggled throughout the spring and it seems like it’ll take more time.
All in all it was one of the worst Spring Training games some have seen and is certainly one to forget. Tomorrow the Yankees head back to George M. Steinbrenner Field to take on the Rays at 6:35 PM. CC Sabathia looks to get his Spring back on track as he continues to battle and stay in the rotation.