Bronx, NY—Rookie pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka pitched another masterpiece on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, thus continuing his extremely impressive pitching against major league opposition. Living up to the high expectations, the native of Japan earned his eighth victory in his first nine decisions this season.
Already considered the ace of the Yankee starting rotation, the 25 year-old is quickly becoming one of the standout starters in MLB. When asked by a reporter if he considered himself the ace on the Yankees, Tanaka modestly replied, “No, I don’t feel that I’m the ace.” When Yankee catcher Brian McCann was asked the same question, he replied somewhat differently, “He’s a top of the rotation starter. I can’t say enough about him.”
Tanaka yielded an unearned run that began with an error committed by third sacker Kelly Johnson on the first batter of the first frame on Saturday afternoon. Asked if he felt extra pressure when errors like that are made, he replied, “No one wants to make an error in a game. [After it], I wanted to come up strong.”
This he did as he then held the Minnesota Twins scoreless in his next seven innings on the mound. The rookie scattered four hits and walked two batters in eight innings. He faced the minimum nine batters in his final three innings in the game.
Tanaka fanned nine batters in the game, raising his total to 88 in the 2014 campaign. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his number of strikeouts ranks third since 1900 for the first 11 starts on the major league level. He is topped only by Kerry Wood (94) in 1972 and Herb Score (92) in 1955.
His start as a major league pitcher ranks him among the best at this early stage of his career. He and Steve Rogers of Montreal in 1973 are the only pitchers who have pitched at least six innings and not given up more than three earned runs in each of their first 11 starts in the majors.
His latest start was the third in which Tanaka has not surrendered an earned run. In none of his starts has he yielded more than eight hits. He has only walked a total of 12 batters in his 11 starts, an average of little more than one per game.
The accolades for his work come from all quarters. Yankee closer David Robertson, who earned his 12th save in 13 attempts by pitching the ninth on Saturday, stated, “He’s shown us what he can do. This is what we expect of him.”
On the offensive side of the ledger, another rookie, Yangervis Solarte, has proved to be very welcome in the Yankee ranks. The infielder hit safely three times on Saturday and is currently batting .299. His most important hit of the game was a solo home run with two out in the fourth that knotted the score at one.
The tie was broken in the bottom of the eighth. Jacoby Ellsbury singled. He then stole second, which pressured the catcher to throw the ball into center. Ellsbury scored on a single by McCann. After the game concluded, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi said of Ellsbury’s effort in the eighth, “That’s the difference in the game.”
The rubber game of the three game set will be played on Sunday afternoon. Rookie Chase Whitley will be making his fourth start for the Yankees and former Yank Phil Hughes will start for Minnesota.