Tanaka is Only Bright Spot for Yanks
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, JUNE 6- The Yankees ended their most recent homestand on Thursday afternoon with a 2-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics. The Yankees have achieved a victory in 10 of the 12 games Masahiro Tanaka has started. The win ended a four-game losing streak for the club.
Tanaka is continuing in the month of June what he accomplished during May. Tanaka excelled during his six starts in May. He compiled a record of 5-1 with a miniscule ERA of 1.88. The 25 year-old kept his pinpoint control throughout the previous month by averaging one walk per appearance yet fanning one per inning. His achievements on the mound earned him the award as Pitcher of the Month in the American League. He is the first Yankee rookie hurler to achieve that distinction.
With one out in the first inning on Thursday, Oakland’s catcher John Jaso took the first pitch from Tanaka into the rightfield stands. The home run was the first yielded by the right-hander in more than one month (May 3).
The four bagger did not disturb the Japanese native as he retired the next 10 batters he faced.
With two out in the fourth, he gave up successive singles, but retired the last batter with a strikeout. The first Oakland batter in the next frame singled. With two out, Tanaka walked his only batter of the game. The inning ended with a pop out. In the sixth, Tanaka’s final inning, one batter singled but never reached second.
Tanaka was removed after six. Yankee manager Joe Girardi explained the reasoning, “I think he threw 50 pitches in the last two innings. We felt fatigue had set in and it was time to take him out.”
Although it was his shortest performance in number of innings, Girardi expressed great admiration for how well he pitched, “He never let up and got the big outs he needed. It was a gritty performance on his part. [it was] maybe his biggest performance for us.”
Although Girardi did not want to call Tanaka the ace of the staff, he did so in other words, “He stepped up and kind of assumed that role. He’s going to give you distance, shut down the other team and give you a chance to win.”
Catcher Brian McCann took no credit for the starter’s excellence, “Stuffwise it was all there. He pitched great.”
An example of how Tanaka impressed the opposing batters follows. Rightfielder Stephen Voigt commented, “He stays on the corners. He keeps us off balance. His stuff is so good. “ [Despite Tanaka’s talent] I thought we had good at bats all day.”
Tanka admitted the team he faced for the first time was very difficult, “It was a tough game. They [Athletics] were resilient. They don’t give in.”
The rookie pitcher remained with Steve Rogers of the Montreal Expos as the only two pitchers in more than a century to pitch at least six innings and give up three or fewer runs in their first 12 major league starts.
All Yankees fans eagerly await Tanaka’s next start.