Yankees Debut New-Look Offense, But Old Reliable Pitching Wins It

(Andrew McCutchen at the plate in his Yankees debut – Photo by Jason Schott)

The Yankees debuted their new-look lineup, with Andrew McCutchen leading off and the return of catcher Gary Sanchez, but it was the pitching of Masahiro Tanaka that led them a 2-1 win on Saturday evening against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone was asked before the game how excited he was to fill in McCutchen, who was acquired from San Francisco on Friday, and Sanchez, who missed over a month with a groin injury, into Saturday’s lineup, and he said, “I actually wrote it down in my office last night after the game. Really good, obviously, to write those guys in there as we kind of work our way back to getting a little more healthy today. Obviously, adding a premium player in Andrew, just excited to have some really important additions back in our lineup.”

Boone tipped off Friday that he would be open to using McCutchen as a leadoff hitter, and he said of that, “With it being a left-hander (Detroit’s Daniel Norris), he’s just really done a good job this year, he’s hit some leadoff this year, obviously with the Giants. He’s got on base a lot, he’s gotten on base at a little higher clip even against lefties, but he’s done a good job against both righties and lefties. Obviously, I like leading off Hicks against lefties for us, but with Andrew, I feel like his on-base presence and his power presence at the top allows us with Hicks, I like as a switch-hitter to break up the lineup a little bit.”

McCutchen went 0-for-3, with two strikeouts, and a hit-by-pitch, while Sanchez went 0-for-4.

Another Yankee who made his debut Saturday was Adeiny Hechavarria, who came on to play shortstop in the ninth inning. The Yankees acquired the veteran infielder late Friday night from Pittsburgh,

In the game, Detroit started the game with three straight singles against Masahiro Tanaka, who allowed just one of them to come home on a Victor Martinez sacrifice fly to make it 1-0.

Detroit starter Daniel Norris was untouchable, as he retired the Yankees in order through the first four innings, with seven strikeouts.

The Yankees first base runner came in the fifth when Norris walked Miguel Andujar. Sanchez was up next and missed a hone run to left field by about five feet.

Up next was Gleyber Torres, and he also launched one to left field, but this one had no trouble getting over the fence for his 22nd home run of the season to make it 2-1 Yankees.

The next Yankee up was Luke Voit, and with the count 2-2 on him, Norris exited with what was termed as left calf cramping.

Drew VerHagen was in next from the Detroit bullpen and he ended up walking Voit. After he retired Neil Walker on a fly out, he walked Brett Gardner and hit McCutchen on a pitch up and in to load the bases.

Giancarlo Stanton was up next, and he swung at the first pitch and hit a weak pop-up to first base to end the threat.

Tanaka by this point was cruising, but he ran into some trouble in the seventh inning when Grayson Gainer led off with a double, followed by a JaCoby Jones single.

After Jones stole second base, Detroit had second and third with nobody out, but Tanaka dug in and showed, as he has lately, that he can work out of the impossible jam.

Tanaka got Dawel Lugo to ground out to first base, followed by strikeouts of both Mikie Mahtook and Jim Adduci to get out of it.

That was the end of the day for Tanaka, who allowed one run while scattering seven hits and a walk, with six strikeouts, in seven innings, to improve to 10-5 on the season.

Boone said of Tanaka getting through that seventh inning, “I think, obviously, he’s really been on a good run, but you really saw him reaching back, you saw velocity, you saw location on the fastball – I think he leaned on the fastball a little more than he has really in any other start. Obviously, the split and the slider play such a big factor for him, as they did today, but he made some really big pitches with the fastball as well.

“I thought his stuff all day was good. When they scratched that run in the first inning, it was kind of similar to last start (Monday against the Chicago White Sox) where just a couple well-placed balls against him led to that run, but overall, I thought he was really good and I thought the fastball was a little bit more of a factor for him today.

The bullpen, which has struggled of late, had a nice day, as Jonathan Holder pitched a scoreless eighth, followed by Dellin Betances working around a two-out single to Jones to earn his second save of the season and get redemption for coughing up Thursday’s game against Detroit.

The Yankees are now 3-3 on this homestand, with the finale of this four-game set with Detroit on Sunday afternoon before they head to the West Coast for a pivotal six-game stretch, with three each in Oakland and Seattle.

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