Tomorrow, the Yankees will open the season on the road for the first time since 2014, when they visited Minute Maid Park to kick off that season- and the Astros’ American League existence.
Three years later, the entire country will be fixated on the Yankees. New York will kick off the 2017 schedule by visiting American League east foe Tampa Bay in their home park, Tropicana Field. A new era of young Yankee stars will be wrung in by dim lights and deafening cowbells.
Alright, I won’t throw any more shade at the Rays’ stadium. All kidding aside, Sunday should be a very good game. The Rays will send out energetic right hander Chris Archer, who will be making his third straight Opening Day start with the club. Last April 3, he struck out twelve over five frames, but still took a loss to the Blue Jays, a perfect microcosm of a career that’s been devoid of healthy run support. After finishing third in the AL CY Young voting in 2015, Archer seemed poised to take the next step last year. He got off to a rough start, posting a 7+ ERA in April and finishing the year with 19 losses- but 233 strikeouts. What never changed throughout Archer’s up-and-down campaign was his utter dominance of the Yankees. His 0-3 2016 record against them is misleading, as it includes one outing of 8 IP/1R and another that totaled 7 IP/3ER. He’s made 13 starts against the Yankees in his career, holding them to a sharp 2.63 ERA and a WHIP under one.
While most of the Yankees have limited success against Archer, some have the flamethrower’s number. Jacoby Ellsbury has a scorching .559 average against him over 34 games, and since Joe Girardi loves to play matchups, Ellsbury will probably get a top spot in the lineup. By contrast ,Brett Gardner has been held to a .235 clip against him over the same number of at bats.
On the other bump, the Yankees will trot out Masahiro Tanaka for his third straight Opening Day try. Unlike his counterpart, Tanaka entered 2016 with mild expectations and was able to take that next step. After showing flashes of dominance as a rookie in 2014, Tanaka was able to find consistency in 2016. Surrounded by injury concern, Tanaka held up well, firing 199.2 innings last season. He finished with a stellar 3.07 ERA, second best in the American League behind the Blue Jays’ Aaron Sanchez. His 165 strikeout total is admittedly low, but it shows that Tanaka was able to reinvent himself after multiple procedures on his throwing arm. He dominated the Rays in 2016, going 3-0 in five starts. Tanaka struck out 34 batters in 34.1 frames against them, pitching to a miniscule .78 WHIP.
In the end, this game will not mean much. But we’ll remember 2017 as the beginning of something new and exciting for the Yankees.