Chris Archer

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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.

Video: Kevin Kiermaier takes to the sky to rob Manny Machado of a home run

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You might remember that the catwalk at Tropicana Field got in the way of Kevin Kiermaier attempting to make a play on a Kendrys Morales fly ball on Friday night. He had no such problem tonight in Baltimore, robbing Manny Machado of a home run with an excellent leaping catch:

The play is reminiscent of Mike Trout’s leaping catch at Camden Yards from 2012, though it looks like Kiemaier jumped higher. The reaction of Chris Archer might be the best part. He appears to be a combination of relieved and awestruck. Rightfully so.

Kiermaier left tonight’s game in the third inning after the catch. We’ll pass along an update on his status when it’s made available.

UPDATE: Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune passes along word that Kiermaier suffered a mild right ankle sprain while making the catch. He’s considered day-to-day.

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Tigers 4, Rangers 0: Alfredo Simon with the evening’s first one-hit shutout of a Texas team. He needed 116 pitches to do it, but the Rangers never got a runner past second base and were never in it. Best performance by a guy who owns an all-chrome car in baseball history.

Rays 1, Astros 0: Chris Archer not only tossed a one-hit shutout, but it was a Maddux as well, requiring only 98 pitches. Which is amazing given that he struck out 11 dudes. It’s almost like the Astros had to get to the airport to get on a plane to fly to California or something rather than have the Dodgers come in to face them tonight.

Pirates 4, Giants 0: Another shutout, this one a six-hitter and one which required three pitchers — Charlie Morton and two relievers — but a shutout all the same. Neil Walker hit a two-run homer. The Pirates gained a half game on the idle Cardinals and the Giants lost a half game on the idle Dodgers.

Rockies 3, Nationals 2: Yohan Flande allowed two runs over seven innings and also singled twice, driving in a run and scoring. Best performance by a guy named like a spy handler you meet in a cafe in Switzerland before being dropped into an operation in East Berlin in baseball history.

Twins 15, Orioles 2: Tyler Duffey took a shutout into the eighth inning, and by that time he had a two-touchdown lead. Speaking of touchdowns, I was at a bar last night that had two TVs. Both were showing the Cleveland Browns preseason game instead of baseball games which actually counted. If you elect me as president I will send bartenders who do that sort of thing to reeducation camps. This is my promise to you, my fellow Americans.

Diamondbacks 5, Reds 4: The Reds had a 4-0 lead after two innings and lost. I suppose I’ll make an exception regarding that reeducation camp thing for bartenders in Cincinnati who turn off Reds games in favor of Bengals preseason games. You really don’t want people who are drinking to watch something as depressing as the Reds. A.J. Pollock drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the eighth to put the Diamondbacks over.

Indians 3, Yankees 2: Josh Tomlin, in his second start after coming back from shoulder surgery, was effective again, allowing one run over seven innings. A-Rod hit a homer for that one run. He also stole a base in the ninth as the Yankees tried to rally. Someone make sure he didn’t break a hip.

Red Sox 4, Royals 1: Wade Miley allowed one run in seven and a third innings as the Sox win their fifth of seven games since Torey Luvollo stepped in to manage. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit an RBI triple. His last nine hits have been for extra bases. Travis Shaw, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts each had two hits. It’s all about the kids these days in Boston.

Marlins 9, Phillies 7: Miami scored eight runs early and held on for a 9-7 win. Martin Prado homered and drove in three and Marcell Ozuna had a two-run homer. Ozuna’s homer was a bomb that hit the top of the foul pole.

Cubs 7, Braves 1: Jake Arrieta pitched six scoreless innings for his major league-leading 15th win. Fun fact: not one of the outs he recored was on a fly ball: 11 grounders and seven strikeouts.

White Sox 8, Angels 2: The Sox avoid a sweep thanks to a five-run fifth inning. Adam LaRoche had an RBI single and a two-run homer. Jose Abreu drove in three. Jose Quintana allowed two runs and eight hits over six innings. That creep can roll, man.