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Tanaka on the mark with 7 K's over 5 innings

Yankees' Opening Day starter limits potent Braves lineup to 2 hits, 1 run
March 18, 2019

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka breezed through his first 13 batters Monday night in the Yankees' 7-4 Grapefruit League victory over the Braves. A second-inning slow roller to the left side against the shift off the bat of Nick Markakis represented the Braves' only hit off Tanaka

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka breezed through his first 13 batters Monday night in the Yankees' 7-4 Grapefruit League victory over the Braves.

A second-inning slow roller to the left side against the shift off the bat of Nick Markakis represented the Braves' only hit off Tanaka to that point. And Ender Inciarte's full-count walk in the third inning comprised the rest of Atlanta's offense through Tanaka's first 3 2/3 innings.

"I think overall the movement of the off-speed pitches was good," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I didn't have much energy on the fastball earlier, like the first two innings or so. I think velocity kind of came together toward the end. ... Just a little problem with the mechanics -- I wasn't able to transfer all the energy right for the fastballs but tweaked it a little bit, and it started working fine."

After Tanaka got an 0-2 count vs. Markakis in the fourth inning, Markakis extended the at-bat to a 2-2 count, lasting long enough to whack a solo homer past the Atlanta bullpen and into the parking lot beyond the right-field wall at Champion Stadium.

"Other than the home run, he was great," manager Aaron Boone said. "I thought he threw some good cutters tonight, which is something he's been working on a little bit. I thought the slider was really good. He used his fastball effectively. The split was OK. I thought he was really sharp, actually, up over 80 pitches, five innings. He's on track."

After that lone blemish, Tanaka retired four of the last five he faced. Only Dansby Swanson reached, via a full-count walk. Tanaka struck out seven, including Josh Donaldson, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Freddie Freeman (twice) in the thick of the Braves' order. Tanaka threw 53 of 82 pitches for strikes across five innings.

"I feel like I was able to accomplish many things," Tanaka said, reflecting on his whole Spring Training. "Overall I think I was able to get myself ready for Opening Day. ... If we look back at last season, I think I had a pretty good spring. I was pretty satisfied of where I was, going into the season, and the results kind of followed."

Tanaka said he was happy with the knuckle-curve he has been working on during Spring Training. Although he just started using the pitch this year, Tanaka said he felt it was ready for the regular season.

Boone said Tanaka will make one more appearance before the season opener on March 28 at Yankee Stadium against the Orioles.

"I believe he'll throw Saturday," Boone said. "He'll probably go real short ... I haven't gotten it from [pitching coach Larry Rothschild] for sure, but my guess would be one or a couple innings at most."

Bombers bash in second, fifth
While Tanaka cruised, the Yankees crushed Atlanta pitching for three runs in the second inning and four runs in the fifth, when nine hitters stepped to bat.

Luke Voit started the scoring in the second inning by launching a home run to right field off right-hander Bryse Wilson, Voit's fourth home run of Spring Training. With two outs, Tyler Wade doubled down the left-field line before Gio Urshela coaxed a full-count walk. After a double-steal, Ryan Lavarnway knocked them in with a hard single up the middle on a full count.

Against right-hander Jason Creasy in the fifth, Lavarnway blasted a double off the center-field wall to begin the inning. He moved to third on Brett Gardner's frozen rope through the left side. Aaron Judge's triple to the wall in right-center scored both, making the score 5-1, New York. Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu walked to load the bases and end Creasy's night. Austin Romine singled through the box, scoring Judge and pinch-runner Pablo Olivares.

Zak Kerr is a contributor to MLB.com based in Orlando.