Chase Headley

AP Photo

Archer outduels Tanaka, Rays top Yankees in MLB opener

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Pitch by pitch, Chris Archer set the tone for what he and the Tampa Bay Rays hope will be a bounce-back year.

Not such a good start for Masahiro Tanaka and the New York Yankees.

Archer pitched seven solid innings, and the Rays roughed up Tanaka on the way to beating New York 7-3 in the first game of the new Major League Baseball season Sunday.

“We didn’t play perfect, but we played well enough to win,” Archer said. “We scored a lot of runs and made some nice defensive plays. It’s all about winning, and we did that.”

And what the Rays didn’t do a lot of last season, when they sank to the bottom of the AL East with their worst finish (68-94) since 2007.

New York lost on opening day for the sixth consecutive year, with Tanaka matching the shortest start ever by a Yankees pitcher in an opener.

“It happens. He’s human,” Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “He just didn’t command anything. … He usually self corrects real well. But today, he tried a few things and it just didn’t work.”

Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison homered and drove in three runs apiece before a sellout crowd of 31,042 at Tropicana Field. Tanaka, who had baseball’s lowest ERA in spring training, was tagged for a career-worst seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.

A first-time All-Star in 2015 who lost an AL-leading 19 times last season, Archer (1-0) limited New York to two runs and seven hits. He narrowly escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh to turn a five-run lead over to a revamped bullpen.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said it was important to give his ace an opportunity to get through the seventh.

“I’m really happy he did, not only for my sake but the other guys on the staff, too,” Archer said. ” I want them to know when stuff gets hairy, you need to strap it on and go right after them. We don’t need to be bailed out, we need to get out of the inning.”

There were three games around in the majors on the first day, and the Rays got off to a quick start.

Leadoff man Corey Dickerson singled in the Tampa Bay first for the first hit of the season and later scored on Longoria’s sacrifice fly as part of a three-run inning. Longoria connected for a two-run drive in the second.

Aaron Judge had a RBI double, while Starlin Castro and Chase Headley each had three hits for the Yankees.

Tanaka (0-1) made his third consecutive opening day start for the Yankees, and had been 6-0 with a 2.82 ERA in eight career starts against Tampa Bay. He gave up eight hits and two walks.

Longoria connected for his fourth homer on opening day. Morrison, who didn’t drive in a run until May 17 last season, added a solo drive in the third.

“Obviously, you just have to accept it. I can’t take it back,” Tanaka said through a translator. “So, the main thing is, I really need to move forward from today. Make the necessary adjustments.”

UNCHARACTERISTIC

Tanaka, who tied Hideo Nomo for the most opening day starts by a Japanese-born pitcher, had a seven-game winning streak stopped. He went 7-0 with a 2.28 ERA over his final nine starts of last season. … Tanaka had won all three of his previous career starts at Tropicana Field, limiting the Rays to four earned runs in 20 innings for a 1.80 ERA. He led the AL with a 2.36 road ERA in 2016, trailing only the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard (2.29) for the major league lead.

It was the second-shortest start of Tanka’s career. He tied the Yankees shortest on opening day, joining Ron Guidry (1983) and Mel Stottlemyre (1973).

LEADING OFF

Dickerson, who hit 24 home runs last year, was 1 for 5 in his debut as Tampa Bay’s leadoff hitter against right-handed pitching. Cash is considering moving right-handed batting Steven Souza Jr. to the top of the order against left-handers, beginning Tuesday against CC Sabathia.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: SS Didi Gregorius (right shoulder strain) expects to start limited baseball activities the middle of this week. He is out until some time in May. … INF-OF Tyler Austin (broken left ankle) was placed on the 60-day disabled list.

Rays: Longoria, who sat out Tampa Bay’s final spring training game due to a stiff neck, made his club-record ninth consecutive start on opening day. … Seven players, including C Wilson Ramos, OF Colby Rasmus and SS Matt Duffy, begin the season on the disabled list.

UP NEXT

Yankees: LHP CC Sabathia, 3-7 in 14 starts at Tropicana Field since joining New York in 2009, is Tuesday night’s scheduled starter. He’s 2-0 against the Rays in three road starts over the last two seasons.

Rays: RHP Jake Odorizzi is set to work the second game of the series, which resumes after a day off. He went 7-1 with a 2.71 ERA in 14 outings after the All-Star break last year. He was the only Tampa Bay starter with a winning record, at 10-6, in 2016.

Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi disagree on whether A-Rod should play first base

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Mark Teixeira is out for a long time, maybe for the season. That puts Greg Bird at first base against righthanders. But what about against lefties?

Joe Girardi thinks Alex Rodriguez could be the answer. His response yesterday when asked about A-Rod playing first base:

“I think you have to really talk about it now. Because I think our hope was that, when we left on that road trip [last week], you would have Tex back by the time we got home [Friday], or even on the road trip. But now, I think you have to think about it because you’re going to see left-handers. There’s left-handers in our division. There’s a lot of division opponents in the last 32 games or whatever we have left. I think you have to start debating the idea.”

Yankees GM Brian Cashman was asked about that too:

“I don’t think he can play first base,” Cashman countered. On Monday, Cashman said that shifting Chase Headley from third base across the diamond was more likely.

A-Rod has played one game at first this year. Yesterday he took some grounders there. Here’s how it went:

source: Getty Images
BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 1: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees reacts as a baseball comes his way as he was talking fielding practice at first base before a game with Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on September 1, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

 

Tiebreaker goes to Cashman, methinks.

UPDATE: A picture’s worth a thousand words, I guess. Girardi has seen the light:

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Yankees hang 20 runs on the Braves to complete a sweep in Atlanta

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The Yankees plated 20 runs in Sunday’s win against the Braves to complete a three-game series sweep at Turner Field. It’s the second time in just over a month that the Yankees have scored 20 in a game, as they racked up 21 runs on July 28 against the Rangers.

Three Yankees hit home runs, including second baseman Stephen Drew, who finished 4-for-4 with four RBI. Chase Headley homered as one of his three hits in a four-RBI afternoon as well.

Following Sunday’s win, the Yankees are 72-57, sitting just 1.5 games behind the Blue Jays for first place in the AL East. They’re four games up on the Rangers for the first AL Wild Card slot.

The Braves, meanwhile, fall to 54-76. They’ve lost five games in a row and 12 of their last 13. The division-rival Phillies and Marlins are tied for the worst record in baseball at 52-79, but the Braves are only 2.5 games behind in the quest for the #1 overall draft pick next year.