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Former Yankees hitting coach Rick Down dies at 68

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Rick Down, who was the hitting coach for the New York Yankees and several other clubs, has passed away at the age of 68. He died at his home following a long illness.

Down served two stints as the Yankees hitting coach, from 1993-95 and then again from 2002-03. He held the same job with the Dodgers, Red Sox, Orioles and Mets over the years. He was likewise a good minor league manager, leading the Triple-A Columbus Clippers — then a Yankees affiliate — to three consecutive division titles from 1990-92 and a franchise-record 95 wins in 1992. He would, unfortunately, be bypassed for major league managerial jobs, though he did manage in Winter League ball many times and served as an advanced scout and hitting coordinator.

Down never made the big leagues as a player, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that he was an outfielder in the Montreal Expos system when that organization was just loaded with outfielders, including Andre Dawson, Ellis Valentine, Warren Cromartie and Jerry White. He retired as a player in his late 20s before embarking on his long and successful coaching career.

Masahiro Tanaka throws two-hit shutout vs. Rays

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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka went the distance, holding the Rays scoreless on two hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts across nine innings on Monday night in the Bronx. It’s the fourth shutout of his career, accounting for four of the Yankees’ last six shutouts. The other two were thrown my Luis Severino and Brandon McCarthy.

DJ LeMahieu provided the bulk of the offense, swatting a two-run home run off of Yonny Chirinos in the third inning. Cameron Maybin tacked on a solo homer off of Chirinos in the fifth as the Yankees went on to win 3-0.

After Monday’s performance, Tanaka owns a 3.23 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 20 walks across 92 innings on the season.

With the win, the Yankees increase their lead over the Rays for first place in the AL East to 1.5 games.