After outlasting the New York Yankees in a 5-hour, 49-minute opener, the Tampa Bay Rays won't have long to prepare as they try to accomplish something no team in any country has done over the past 20 months.
The visiting Rays look to deal Yankees rookie Masahiro Tanaka his first regular-season defeat since August 2012 on Saturday when they go for a season-high fourth straight victory.Since signing a seven-year, $155 million deal with New York (15-13) in January, Tanaka (3-0, 2.27 ERA) has certainly lived up to the hype so far in his first major league season.By winning his first three decisions for the Yankees, the former Pacific League star has improved to 31-0 combined in Japan and the United States over his last 39 regular-season starts. However, he did have a 30-start unbeaten streak overall snapped with a 4-2 loss in Game 6 of the 2013 Japan Series.The right-hander looks to keep his unbeaten run alive after allowing nine runs while limiting opponents to a .205 batting average over his first 35 2/3 major league innings. He also has 46 strikeouts, setting a record for any Yankees pitcher through his first five career starts.Tanaka gave up two runs and five hits over 6 1/3 innings Sunday, but was on the hook for the loss before New York rallied late for a 3-2 home win over the Los Angeles Angels. He finished with a season-best 11 strikeouts, but also ended up with four walks -- two more than he had in his first four outings combined."I'm not satisfied with how I've pitched," Tanaka told the team's official website through an interpreter. "I've given up runs, particularly early in the game. That part kind of bothers me."Tanaka, who has gone at least seven innings in four of his five starts, may have to go deep in this outing after the bullpen has been needed for 16 1/3 innings during New York's three straight losses -- including 9 1/3 on Friday. He'll face a Tampa Bay team that has totaled 16 runs and 30 hits in its last two.The Rays (14-16) put up five runs in the 14th inning Friday for a 10-5 victory to open this three-game series.James Loney was one of five players with three hits, improving to 19 for 32 with 10 RBIs over the past eight games. He's also 22 for 44 during an 11-game hitting streak at Yankee Stadium.After batting .197 in their first five games on the homestand, the Yankees had a season-high 18 hits Friday but went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position. Derek Jeter went a career-worst 0 for 7, leaving him in a 4-for-26 slide.New York might be able to turn things around against Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 6.85), who hasn't won since limiting Texas to three hits over six scoreless innings in an 8-1 home win April 4.The right-hander, who has gone 0-3 with a 9.17 ERA over his last four outings, allowed four runs and eight hits over 4 1/3 innings in a 7-3 road loss to the Chicago White Sox on Monday."My execution was a lot better than it was in the last three games and that's the positive I'm taking out of it," Odorizzi said. "It's discouraging. Hopefully I'm going to bounce back between now and New York and leave April behind."In his only appearance versus the Yankees on Sept. 24, Odorizzi earned the save after allowing one hit over three innings of relief in a 7-0 win in the Bronx.
The Tampa Bay Rays have chased 35.7 percent of splitters thrown out of the strike zone since the beginning of 2013, which ranks as the fourth-most in MLB. So far in 2014, Masahiro Tanaka is getting hitters to chase splitters out of the strike zone 61.7 percent of the time, which is the most in MLB.