Yet another successful outing by Masahiro Tanaka last night. With the news that Ivan Nova is likely done for the year and facing Tommy John surgery, and with Michael Pineda, as fantastic as he has been, still being closely watched, dominance is exactly what the Yankees need.
Tanaka doesn’t seem to fit the type. His fastball appears to sit in the middle of the strike zone on occasion and, while he can hit mid 90s with it, it mostly sits the low 90s. Even with that otherworldly splitter he possess, he just doesn’t seem to fit the profile.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman seemed to concede as much when he said during a February 2014 interview on ESPN Radio, “We view him to be a really solid, consistent No. 3 starter.” That raised more than a few eyebrows as few teams, even the Yankees, can give $155MM to a No. 3 starter.
Still, if Tanaka could put up similar numbers to Andy Pettitte, the #3 starter Tanaka was essentially replacing, who had an 11-11 record and 3.74 ERA in 2013, it would be considered a success.
Though he was great in his first three starts, fans waited for the real test, the test that every Yankees pitcher, home grown or free agent, youngster or grizzled veteran, must pass. Could he pitch against the Boston Red Sox? It’s not that the games mean more than a game against any other division rival. They don’t. It’s just that they feel like they do, to fans and, whether they admit it or not, to some players.
There was some nervousness when Tanaka gave up back to back HR’s. Was he en route to a Chase Wright type of outing? Would the Red Sox do to him what they’ve done to many a Yankees import over the years: wear him down and drive him out of the game early and without a quality start?
As it turns out, no he wasn’t and no they wouldn’t. Tanaka settled down to throw 7.1 IP, striking out 7, walking none and, in the process actually raised his season ERA to 2.25. He didn’t wilt and didn’t hang his head. He just went back to work, shutting down the Red Sox.
The league might do some catching up with Masahiro Tanaka, causing his numbers to tick up closer to league average. For now, though, it’s fun to just sit back and watch him dominate as easily the best #4 starter in all of baseball.