St. Petersburg, Fla. – It would have been the strong pitching of Masahiro Tanaka Friday night for the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field that was a cause for optimism. The righthander threw seven shutout innings on two hits- 82 pitches and for the start of a 10-game road trip it gave manager Joe Girardi more of a reason to be optimistic.
Tanaka got his third win of the season. But the veterans, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran who have been the subject of a DH discussion both hit home run balls that helped Tanaka and the Yankees to a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in front of 14,697 fans, many who cheered for the visiting team from the Bronx.
For Girardi, at least on this Friday night a debate of who gets to DH, or play right field was not an issue. Saturday is another day and the next game of three in the in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, and for now Girardi may stick with the lineup of Beltran in right field and A-Rod as the designated hitter.
Hey, if this means that Beltran can continue to hit home runs, and if the DH spot continues to provide A-Rod the role of not playing on the field, than the Yankees manager can stick with his plan. Friday night it worked to perfection and the home runs were hit high and far off Tampa Bay ace Chris Archer.
“We need production from the guys in the middle of our order to be successful,” Girardi said. “If you’re not getting production from the middle of the order you’re probably going to have a hard time. Tonight we got two home runs.”
And it was three runs batted in from Beltran and Rodriguez. That is more reason for added optimism after both went a combined 0-for-8 Thursday afternoon in a series finale loss to Toronto in the Bronx. Beltran got the sombrero striking out four times, and A-Rod struck out twice.
But what a difference a day makes. It is a part of this Yankees lineup this season, that being the inconsistency and one never knows, or can contemplate what two of the oldest guys on the roster will give you on any given day.
Except Friday night, and with Girardi sticking to his game plan, the two aging stars produced and got the Yankees a win that was important to start a road trip that does seem significant in late May.
The A-Rod home run off a 95-mile Archer fastball in the sixth inning came off a 0-1 pitch. It went deep into the empty seats in left center that sparked a three-run inning for New York. It was his first home run since coming off the disabled list and was the 695th of his career.
“It’s always good to produce and drive the ball like that,” Rodriguez said about his long home run, his sixth of the season. He mentioned how three weeks on the DL with a strained right hamstring made him feel better. In other words, the time off did A-Rod justice after the slow start which had the average and production well below his career numbers.
And for Beltran, who is the Yankees leading home run hitter, the 403rd of his career, also gave Girardi more reason to keep him in the lineup and to stay in right field the next couple of days. Even with two bad knees, for Beltran, the home run ball that leads to runs makes the decision easier for Girardi.
Said Girardi: “This team was built when we started this year for Alex to DH and Carlos to play right. Alex has been down 21 days but he was swinging the bat really well before he got hurt. And I think it’s way too quick to abandon what we were planning.”
As for Tanaka, catcher Brian McCann saw something different, Consistency and the command getting better with each pitch, and the ability to maximize which led to a low pitch count.
“Do that and you are doing something right,” said McCann. And for the Yankees they will need that consistency also from Rodriguez and Beltran in order to make their season worth it. Friday night was the start with those home runs balls.
For now, it also settles the debate that was more simpler than the political debates of this Presidential election year: Beltran is the right fielder and A-Rod the DH.
Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected] [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso