Bronx, NY—The weather in the Bronx during the Wednesday day/night doubleheader was very different than that for the previous evening. The skies were clear, but the temperature had dropped 30 degrees from the previous day.
The weather was certainly conducive to the pitching performance of first game starter Masahiro Tanaka. The Japanese native, in only his third start in the majors, completely dominated the Cubs’ batters.
Tanaka’s performance lived up to all advance billing. He yielded only two bunt singles and walked one batter in eight innings of work. The 25 year-old was consistently in the strike zone, throwing 76 strikes of 107 pitches and fanning ten.
His 28 strikeouts in his first three major league starts surpassed the Yankee mark of 25 by Al Leiter for strikeouts achieved in one’s first three starts in the majors. Tanaka was not very impressed by his strikeout total, “It’s just another way of getting outs. It’s nothing special.”
To put the performance in perspective, Tanaka is the first Yankee starter to pitch eight innings in which he blanked his opponents, fanned at least ten batters and gave up two or fewer hits since Randy Johnson on July 26, 2005.
After the contest, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi mentioned the pressure of living up to expectations for the young hurler after his 24-0 season in Japan, “It would have been extremely hard for him to live up to.”
Tanaka retired 14 straight batters between the single by junior Leak in the second and Anthony Rizzo’s single that led off the seventh. The rookie hurler fanned three of the last four batters he faced.
Girardi credited Tanaka’s “outstanding command of his split and slider” for his successful start.
Tanaka spoke about his adjustment to the majors, “I feel I was a little bit more calm. As you know, in the first and second game, I struggled. I feel like I am going through the adjustment phase right now. I’ll know better when the season ends.”
The young pitcher was asked if the extra day of rest caused by the rainout of Tuesday’s contest helped him, “Judging by the result, maybe that extra day helped.”
Tanaka’s superlative eight innings and Shawn Kelley’s one inning save did not require a prodigious offensive output by their teammates. The Yankees managed only five hits, which was sufficient for the win.
The first run was scored in the first frame on a solo homer by Carlos Beltran, his fourth of the season and the third straight game in which he has produced a four bagger.
The second run came in the fourth on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded by Dean Anna.
The final run of the game was scored by Brett Gardner in the next inning. He doubled to start the frame and scored on a ground ball out by Jacoby Ellsbury.
The shutout was the first by the Yanks in the 2014 campaign.
The second game of the two game set with the Cubs began at 7 pm on the same day. The similarity of the two contests was striking as the young pitchers on the Yanks accomplished their second shutout of the day and of the season.
Tho only difference was that every on-the-field individual wore a jersey with #42 to honor Jackie Robinson.
Another 25 year-old starter, Michael Pineda, two months younger than Tanaka, made his third impressive start of the young season. As in the other two starts, Pineda pitched six outstanding innings. He also blanked the Cubs, yielding only four hits and one walk.
Girardi said of the youngster, “command of his change as well as his slider”’ was responsible for his stunning performance.
The Yankees only needed one run but managed to score two.
Three singles in each of two innings scored the necessary runs. In the fourth, Scott Sizemore and Kelly Johnson singled and the third single by Brett Gardner drove in the tally.
In the next inning, Alfonso Soriano and rookie Yangervis Solarte singled and Sizemore had the run batted in single.
The doubleheader sweep raised the Yankee record to 9-6.