ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The New York Yankees will look to even their three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays by sending right-hander Masahiro Tanaka to the mound at Tropicana Field on Saturday afternoon.
Tanaka (5-2, 5.80 ERA) is coming off of his worst start of the season, giving up eight runs and four home runs to the Houston Astros in 1 2/3 innings last Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
The Rays (22-22) have usually been a welcome sight for Tanaka, who is 6-1 with a 3.79 ERA in nine career starts against them. However, Tampa Bay shelled Tanaka for seven runs in 2 2/3 innings in his only start against the team on Opening Day.
Tanaka said he felt flat against the Astros and told MLB.com that he didn’t have command of his slider or split-finger fastball last week.
“(The pitches) were obviously flat,” Tanaka said. “There’s times like this in the season. You just have to battle through it. They took some really good swings on pitches, and they were flat.”
To help with the issue, Tanaka has been working overtime on his mechanics with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
“It comes back to the mechanics of the pitches,” Tanaka said. “I think I have to go look at some stuff and analyze what I did.”
The Rays will answer with right-hander Matt Andriese, who is 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA and is 2-0 in his last three starts.
Overall, Andriese is just 1-2 with a 4.97 ERA in six starts against the Yankees (24-15) but he looked good in his only start against the Bronx Bombers this season when he gave up one run over six innings in a no-decision on April 13.
“It’s a good lineup one through nine and they have a couple of guys in the middle of the lineup that can hurt you real bad if you make the wrong pitches,” Andriese said. “I had a good start against them in New York and I want to build off that one. You just have to attack the strike zone against them.”
Andriese will try to be careful of what the Yankees can do at the top of the order with Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury. The pair combined to go 3-for-7 with two walks, three runs scored and an RBI in the 5-4 loss on Friday night.
But the Rays are swinging hot bats right now. Third baseman Evan Longoria went 4-for-5 with a double and RBI on Friday to break out of an 0-for-12 slump. Longoria has 102 career RBIs against the Yankees.
“I felt good at the plate,” Longoria said. “There are moments where you go up there and you feel great and it doesn’t happen. (Friday), it happened. It was back-and-forth but it was important to get a win against a team that we are looking up to in the division.
“We’re back at .500 and there’s a lot of belief in this room that we can build on what we did on the road trip and what we did (Friday).”