Pitcher Shuts Down Mets,
Gives Yankees Hope
By Rich Mancuso
BRONX, NEW YORK, MAY 15- Masahiro Tanaka is now the stopper for the New York Yankees. The Mets were first hand observers and will not say anything different after the right-hander shutthem out at Citi Field Wednesday evening. And there should be no doubt about the stopper role because that is what the Yankees needed to end a four-game losing streak.
He was also what the Yankees needed to stop a six-game losing streak against the Mets dating back to last season. And with CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda, three quarters of the Yankees’ starting rotation on the disabled list this is what manager Joe Girardi was looking for.
“We needed a win,” Girardi said. “After losing a couple of tough games at home he got better as the night went on. He’s been special. The young kid throws good… he has a lot of weapons and knows how to handle the baseball.”
Though Girardi did admit, Tanaka will be managed differently because of the injuries. In other words, despite getting the first complete game shutout of his Major League career, Tanaka who threw 114 pitches, will be protected from going the route. Girardi knows he does not need his best to also go down with an injury.
But, Tanaka was purchased by the Yankees to pitch like every other starter. Go deep into games and get the win, providing there was enough run support. The Mets showed a resurgence of power and run production, in two games at Yankee Stadium this week, but they came home to Citi Field and again their bats went quiet.
And it was attributed to Tanaka who became the first Yankees rookie pitcher to begin the season at 6-0. At this rate, and there is every expectation he will continue to be dominant, Tanaka is a cinch to win the AL Rookie of the year or AL CY Young Award.
However, there is a long way to go before Tanaka is considered for those prestigious post season awards. The Yankees are more inclined for Tanaka to keep pitching well, and to be the one who can keep the ship afloat as their ailing pitching staff gets back to health.
Here is how dominating Tanaka was: He threw 28 splitters where the Mets hit into eight outs and managed only one base runner. Eric Young Jr. hit a double in the sixth inning, one of their four hits and that was the only other time they had a runner reach second.
He had the Mets swinging and missing. He had them confused at the plate, just as he has done in seven previous starts against American League opponents. So, by now, not even teams in the National League can figure a way to hit that splitter.
"I knew what was coming, but I couldn't hit it," the Mets’ Daniel Murphy said. "He's commanding all his pitches to all zones. The splitter is the equalizer. You don't see it that much, someone using it in any count like that.”
Tanaka said, through his Japanese translator, "I just go up there and basically try to win every single game.” At this rate, and the way the Yankees have been scoring runs, they would love to see Tanaka on the mound every game.
The spotlight of pitching in this inter-league Subway Series game, and opposing the debut of Mets rookie pitcher Rafael Montero, did not cause a distraction. He gets on the mound and gets the job done, as has been the situation since his debut on the mound at Yankee Stadium last month.
He became another storyline in what has become an interesting three games between the Yankees and Mets….
As for the Mets, who will debut rookie Jacob deGrom in the series finale Thursday night, manager Terry Collins praised Tanaka. deGrom is one of those young promising arms getting an early season look, like Montero early in the season, and needed with Dillon Gee on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right lar.
Collins also saw the difference again of long balls that went for outs at Citi Field. Six home runs hit by the Mets in two games at Yankee Stadium will make a manager see things differently.
He said, "You asked me about the home run barrage? We hit three of them tonight. They were just in the wrong park.”
The night belonged to Tanaka and the Yankees. And the Mets may have come to a decision and anointed Jennry Mejia as their closer when Kyle Farnsworth was outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. Though Farnsworth has a right to refuse the assignment and could be with another team.
To that, a frustrated and disappointed Farnsworth had his say in the matter. He said there was anger and disappointment in the decision to let him go. And for the Mets, who appeared to have Farnsworth in the closer role, it was another way to get the bullpen up to par. Farnsworth was not the answer, neither is Jose Valverde who could also be out the door.
But the Yankees have a different situation. They have a stopper in Masahiro Tanaka.