The Yankees left the season-opening series with the Orioles on the wrong side of the standings, losing two of three games to Baltimore.
After a resounding and expected Opening Day thumping of the Orioles, the Yankees wasted a fine starting pitcher effort Saturday and roundly failed to produce with runners in scoring position. Sunday's effort was an all-around disappointment from all facets.
As the Yankees are set to begin a three-game series with the Tigers on Monday, let's take a look at three players trending up and three players/areas trending down.
1) Masahiro Tanaka
Tanaka took the hill on Opening Day, the fourth such start for the right-hander with the Yankees. The results were not very good in previous seasons, but Tanaka did exactly as he should against what is expected to be a below average offensive club.
Tanaka tossed 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball (one earned run) while scattering six hits, walking zero and striking out five batters. His importance early this season cannot be understated with the absence of Luis Severino expected to last through April.
2) James Paxton
Paxton had the pressure of making his first start in pinstripes after coming over to the Yankees in an offseason trade with the Mariners. The 30-year-old left-hander handled the butterflies quite well, allowing two runs (one earned) across 5 2/3 innings. The Orioles managed just five hits off Paxton, who walked one and struck out five.
Paxton will not be able to escape the tension placed upon him this season as he will be expected to perform as an elite starter. As far as first impressions go, Paxton passed the eye test and his personal results were in line with expectations.
3) DJ LeMahieu
The Yankees have professed the need to get LeMahieu into the starting lineup as much as possible and the infielder demonstrated he deserves the time based on Saturday and Sunday's efforts.
LeMahieu went 4-for-6, with two walks, two runs and two RBIs in the two games, playing third base on Saturday and second base Sunday. The 30-year-old infielder was in the middle of Yankees' rallies in both games. As impressive, LeMahieu played spectacular defense at third base, showing he should be able to translate the defensive prowess that has garnered him three Gold Glove awards at second base.
1) J.A. Happ
When the Yankees missed out on Patrick Corbin in free agency, they shifted gears to sign Happ. It's hard to fault the Yankees line of thinking after Happ went 7-0 after coming to the club in a July trade last season.
However, Happ took the hill after a three-hour, 17-minute rain delay and looked completely out of rhythm. Happ allowed a three-run home run in the first inning and a solo shot in the third inning. The Yankees pulled Happ after four innings in which he allowed four runs on five hits, one walk and just three strikeouts.
Coming off a poor spring training, some doubt may be creeping in on Happ's effectiveness. Happ is in the rotation to do more than provide innings and if he cannot generate positive results it could severely dampen the club's standing.
2) Brett Gardner
Gardner was signed early in the offseason, which seemed interesting considering a down 2018 campaign and the shrinking desire for outfielders in their mid-30s. With Aaron Hicks out with a sore back, Gardner was thrust into the starting lineup as the leadoff hitter.
The results were terrible. Gardner managed just one base hit and two walks in 15 plate appearances (.277 OPS). Gardner saw under four pitches per plate appearance and produced weak pop ups throughout the series. The Yankees might have figured that Gardner was not going to be playing every day, but the team might not have fully considered how impactful (or non-impactful) his efforts would be.
3) Yankees middle relievers
Once again, the Yankees bullpen is supposed to be one of, if not, its biggest strengths this season. That was believed to reach beyond the elite relief crew, but was not the case this weekend.
In Saturday's affair, Chad Green and Jonathan Holder each allowed runs in their appearances, which allowed the Orioles to stretch its lead. On Sunday, after a fine effort by Luis Cessa, Stephen Tarpley coughed up a two-run homer after the Yankees pulled to within one run the half-inning prior.
The Yankees are not going to have the lead every game, but the middle relief crew will be charged with keeping New York in games to allow the offense to chip away. They could not do that job over the weekend and it help cost the Yankees.