YANKEES (56-29) AT RAYS (50-38)
7:10 p.m. ET; FS-SUN, YES, MLB.TV
Masahiro Tanaka and Brendan McKay made history the last time they stepped onto a big-league field.
They’ll both look for a return to relative normalcy Friday night, when Tanaka takes the mound for the New York Yankees against McKay and the Tampa Bay Rays in the second game of a four-game series in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Tanaka (5-5, 3.74 ERA) will look to bounce back from the shortest start of his career when he opposes McKay (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who is attempting to follow up a nearly perfect big-league mound debut.
The Yankees earned an eventful 8-4 win in Thursday’s opener. Closer Aroldis Chapman squandered a two-run lead in the ninth inning before Gary Sanchez’s three-run homer capped a five-run 10th. However, the Rays scored once in the bottom of the 10th and loaded the bases with two outs before David Hale notched the save by inducing Yandy Diaz to hit into a fielder’s choice.
With their bullpen taxed — six relievers combined to throw the final 4 2/3 innings Thursday — the Yankees surely will be as eager as Tanaka to see the 30-year-old right-hander return to his usual reliable self.
Tanaka pitched at least six innings in nine straight starts before Saturday, when he started the first major league game in London, but he gave up six runs while getting just two outs against the Boston Red Sox in a wild 17-13 win for New York at bandbox-like London Stadium.
Of course, Tanaka wasn’t the only pitcher to have trouble in the two-game series, during which the Yankees and Red Sox combined to produce 50 runs on 65 hits.
“I have no excuse as far as my pitching goes,” Tanaka told reporters afterward. “You just have to kind of tip your cap to the other team. I just wasn’t efficient and I wasn’t able to do my job out there.”
McKay spent his first week in the majors doing two jobs. The dual prospect, whom the Rays selected with the fourth pick of the 2017 draft, was recalled from Triple-A Durham to make what turned out to be a dazzling debut Saturday. He retired the first 16 batters he faced and earned the win after allowing one hit over six scoreless innings as Tampa Bay beat the Texas Rangers 5-2.
Two days later, McKay joined a select group by going 0-for-4 as the designated hitter in the Rays’ 6-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles. He is just the fourth player ever to start on the mound, then perform in a non-pitching role in his first two games. Before the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani did it last year, only Carl East with the 1915 St. Louis Browns and the 1924 Washington Senators, and Syd Cohen with the 1934 Senators had achieved the feat.
“It’s been great to get everything out of the way quickly and get your feet wet on both sides, pitching and hitting,” McKay told reporters this week. “Just to get in there and feel, like, normal.”
Tanaka is 10-4 with a 3.06 ERA in 17 career starts against the Rays.
–Field Level Media