The New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays hooked up April 12th-14th at Rogers Centre in the first of what promises to be many hard fought series in 2016. Games vs the Blue Jays have taken on a new dynamic over the past year, almost to the point where they have the feel of many of the old Yankees-Red Sox matchups. The Yankees came into the series on the heels of back to back off days due to a postponed game in Detroit before a regularly scheduled day off and they were looking for a little length from their starting rotation.
Relief Aces Come Through in the Clutch
The Yankees trotted out Masahiro Tanaka to the mound in the series opener as he looked to build on a solid, but unspectacular opening day start. Tanaka struggled with his control, taking 54 pitches to work around the powerful bats in the Jays lineup. His day would be done after 5 innings with the Yankees facing a 2-1 deficit. Tanaka’s final line would be 5IP, 3H, 2R, 4BB, 6Ks.
Brian McCann was a big story for the rest of the game as his big blast in the sixth inning would tie the game at 2-2, but a foul ball off of his foot would cause him to be replaced by Austin Romine. A fluoroscope of his little toe would come back negative, but it would cost him the second game of the series.
A Didi Gregorius sacrifice bunt in the seventh after the first two batters reached base set the stage for Jacoby Ellsbury‘s bloop single to put the Yankees in front, 3-2. The late-inning game plan was being worked to perfection.
In what will have to be the Yankees M.O. in 2016, the combination of Johnny Barbato, Chasen Shreve, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller combined for 4 innings of no-hit relief with Barbato getting the win and Miller the save. Once Aroldis Chapman is back on the field, these 5 will have to be counted on to carry the workload of a starting rotation with some issues. Barbato has been the pleasant surprise early in the season and looks to be the guy that can limit the “Scranton Shuttle” from being needed as much.
The Yankees looked to build on their game one win as Michael Pineda went to the hill after being roughed up for 5 runs in the first two innings of his first start against the Houston Astros. Pineda was good on this night, but not great, going 6 innings and giving up two earned runs and walking three. The three walks were the most Pineda had given up as a Yankee. Pineda seemed to have similar issues to Tanaka in Game 1 while trying to tip toe around the Jays offense.
J A Happ came into the game having not taken the loss in his last 11 starts. In that span, he had an ERA of 1.55 and had given up 2 runs or less in 10 of the 11 outings. The Yankees had opportunities they never could cash in against him, but after Mark Teixeira pulled a Drew Storen pitch into the right field seats for a home run, the Yanks were only down 3-2 headed to the bottom of the eighth.
Ivan Nova came in to pitch the bottom of the frame and looking totally out of place, promptly giving up 5 hits and 4 runs with a wild pitch and hitting one batter. Jay’s 1, Girardi’s Binder 0. Out of place might have been putting it mildly. Out of his element, maybe? The Yanks would go quietly in the ninth to lose, 7-2.
Uh-ovaldi in the rubber match
Nathan Eovaldi would be matched against the Jays ace Marcus Stroman in the third game of the series. Eovaldi stayed true to his usual ways as he shut the Jays down the first times through the order, giving up two hits and no runs. The third time through the order proved to be his downfall as Josh Donaldson‘s three-run blast in the fifth and Troy Tulowitski’s solo shot in the sixth would prove to be all the offense Toronto would need. Eovaldi did manage to strikeout eight and his 6.2 innings was the longest outing by a Yankee starter this season.
Marcus Stroman was too much for the Yankees bats as he gave up two runs in eight strong innings. Their three hits tied them for a season low and have now scored two runs in back-to back games, and have scored two runs or fewer three times this season. The team has scored 35 runs in their four wins and a total of 7 runs in their four losses.
Outside of two innings-the 8th in the second game and the 5th in the third game-both teams were neck and neck in this hotly contested series. The Jays power bats made the Yankees pay dearly in those two innings to take two out of three games.
The team still has to get a little more length from their starters to get to the vaunted bullpen. Ivan Nova was probably not the best option for the eighth inning on Wednesday night, and Eovaldi still has his issues once teams see him for the third time in a game. Especially a team loaded with the bats that the Jays have. The Yankees left Canada with a 4-4 record overall and head home to take on Robinson Cano and the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.