It was announced that Aaron Judge would in fact start the season off as the Yankees' starting right fielder after a productive spring. The jovial Joe Girardi of training camp looked joyless in his postgame news conference. I really wanted to cap off a good start by him.
Even the manager didn't see it coming. Tanaka, who had baseball's lowest ERA in spring training, was tagged for a career-worst seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.
Archer faced further trouble in the seventh when he loaded the bases, but he escaped thanks to a strikeout, fly ball to right and a Gary Sanchez groundball to short. While anyone could have predicted that Greg Bird was going to win that first base spot, right field was a bit of a different story.
It was the second-shortest outing of his career and the shortest Opening Day outing by a Yankees pitcher since Ron Guidry allowed four runs on seven hits in 2.2 innings against the Seattle Mariners in 1983. "Obviously you want to win and do well, but it's getting back to it".
For his part, Tanaka has pitched well while with the Yankees and despite the tear in the UCL, has earned his place as the staff ace. He also struck out 54 batters compared to just four walks, while the Rays only hit.204/.222/.413 against him.
CC Sabathia is scheduled to start Tuesday in the second game of the series against the Rays, with Michael Pineda slated for Wednesday and Luis Severino on the mound when NY takes on Baltimore on Friday. Coming into the game, Tanaka had a 2.82 ERA and 0.810 WHIP over 54.1 innings.
That doesn't take the sting out of Tanaka's start on Sunday.
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It got worse after the first.
The Rays forced Tanaka to throw 67 pitches, generating eight hits, two homers and two walks, triggering Tanaka's early exit just 2 2/3 innings into the game.
Bumgarner has 17 career home runs, three last season. His go-to-pitch, the splitter, had no bite.
"He's usually very good at having a couple of pitches to go to if something else isn't working", pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. One of the biggest questions of this lineup that really has gone unanswered with all the attention being on the young bloods for the past eight months is Jacoby Ellsbury. The last time the Yankees won an Opening Day game was in 2011 against the Tigers.
Tanaka was slightly better than Roger Clemens in 2002 and Mel Stottlemyre in 1974.
The two stud sluggers nearly certainly will get their share of big hits all season and throughout their pinstriped careers, so let's please not start with the automatic Kevin Maas comparisons for both of them, OK? Those are the right type of starters to be paired up to in Yankees history, but for the wrong reason.
It will be fascinating to watch Tanaka's 2017 campaign knowing that it could end up being his last season as a New York Yankee, especially toward the end of the season, when it comes time for decisions to be made on both ends.