Brett Gardner may have given the Yankees the spark they needed, as he hit a walk-off to give them a big 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday afternoon.
This capped off what might have been the most complete game the Yankees have played all season. They got a great outing from Masahiro Tanaka, and he handed it off to the dynamic duo in the bullpen, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, to close it out.
Gardner said of his walk-off homer, “You definitely, when you’re up 3-1 (in the count) with Carlos (Beltran) swining the bat the way he’s been swinging it, behind me (in the order), you feel good about getting a good pitch to hit and I think he (Erasmo Ramirez) was trying to go away and missed middle-in, and put a good swing on it. So, felt good at the plate, and felt like I was seeing the ball well, andfortunate to have gotten a good pitch to hit.”
Gardner also got the game-tying single in the seventh inning to tie it at 2. In the seventh, Brian McCann and Chase Headley drew walks, and Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a catcher’s interference call to load the bases with two outs before Gardner got his hit.
On how unusual the seventh inning rally was, Gardner said, “It’s a little different; it’s not how you would draw it up, but at this point, we’ll take it any way we can get it. Some guys came through with some big at-bats, patient, trying to make those guys throw strikes, and just pass the baton off to the next guy and keep the line moving. I thought we did a pretty good job of that today.”
Gardner said of how well he has hit the past few games, “I’m not sure, if I can figure it out, I’ll try and continue to do it. I think just for the most part, being patient at the plate, getting good pitches to hit and not chasing anything outside of the zone, being aggressive in the zone, just staying within myself.”
The Yankees’ offense has struggled in the early part of the season, so the fact they were able to grind this one out for their second straight win over Tampa Bay could ignite the lineup. They also are going down to Texas, where they always hit well, for a series with the Rangers on Monday.
On Saturday, the Yankees faced off against left-hander Blake Snell, who was making his major-league debut. Snell allowed one run, caused by a wild pitch in the first inning; two hits, one walk, and he struck out six.
Gardner said of Snell, “He had a really good arm. You could see why there’s so much buzz about him. I thought he had a really live arm. He’s got a good breaking ball. I’m sure he’s got a bright future. I’m not looking to having to continue to face him, obviously, a guy in our division with an arm like that, but that’s what the Rays do. Every year they seem to put out another guy that will impress you. I was impressed, I thought he threw the ball really, really well, good composure for a young kid making his first start here and I thought that he looked really good.”
Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said of how important it is for Ellsbury and Gardner to produce at the top of the order, “It means a lot. Those guys, when they’re on, we’re usually going to score a lot of runs. We get the first run with two out and nobody on (in the first inning), and then those guys were a big part of the next two runs obviously and Gardy (Gardner) had the one that tied it up and the one that ended the game.”
Gardner and Ellsbury have to keep it up, as Aaron Hicks will be missing some time due to a shoulder injury.
Girardi gave an update on Hicks after Saturday’s game: “He has what’s called traumatic bursitis, I believe, inflammation in his shoulder. He received a shot today. He won’t do anything for four, five days, so, obviously, I’m sure they will be a discussion when I get back (to his office), you know, what do we do. Do we go four or five days short or do we do something?”
Masahiro Tanaka gave the Yankees just what they needed on Saturday afternoon, and that was a performance worthy of an ace.
Tanaka went seven innings, and allowed just two runs on five hits, with seven strikeouts, and just one walk allowed.
Tanaka, speaking through a translator, said of what worked in this one, “I really couldn’t find anything that was working perfectly for me, but I think the key was that I was able to hang in there through key moments.”
For most of the game, Tanaka was unhittable, and that kept his pitch count down. In seven innings, he threw 97 pitches, 65 for strikes.
The only times he ran into trouble were in the fourth and fifth innings. In the fourth, he allowed a double to Logan Morrison, and another one to Corey Dickerson, which scored Morrison. In the fifth, Kevin Kiermaier homered to make it 2-1 Tampa Bay at the time.
Girardi said of Tanaka’s outing, “I thought he did a really good job. If we didn’t tie it up, I was going to send him back out for the eighth, so he was going back out. I thought he did a really good job today, and that’s what we needed from him.”
Gardner said of Tanaka’s outing, “Thought he was great. Thought last time out he was great, I thought he pitched a really, really good game. I wish we could have gotten some more runs early, I think it would have taken some stress off of him. I thought he threw the ball really well, he kept those guys off balance.”
The most noteworthy part about Tanaka’s day is that he went seven innings, something Yankees starters have rarely done this season.
Yankees starters need to go deep into games to relieve the pressure on the bullpen, which is thin at the moment.
On Saturday morning, it was revealed that Branden Pinder hit the disabled list and Nick Rumbelow will be out the remainder of the season with Tommy John surgery.
Pinder has a partial tear in the UCL in his right elbow, and has to decide if he wants to rehab it or have Tommy John surgery.
Girardi said of seeing anything that would lead him to believe Pinder was dealing with this injury, “No. He pitched down in the minor leagues a few times, he pitched the one time here, and he came up sore. It’s unfortunate, we’ll see what happens. He’ll make the decision in the next couple of days.”
On how it will affect shuttling relievers back and forth between the Bronx and triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Girardi said, “It definitely affects you because it’s two less arms that you have, that you can possibly bring up, but it opens the door for somebody else; that’s kind of what injuries do a lot of times. It’s frustrating because it’s two guys that we felt that would help us throughout the course of the year, so it does affect what we could possibly do.”
This concern with the bullpen is only temporary, as it is now only a couple of more weeks before Aroldis Chapman returns from suspension on May 9. Chapman is likely to take over as closer, pushing up Miller to the eighth inning and Betances to the seventh.