On Monday night, Masahiro Tanaka made his first start at Yankee Stadium since April 12. The native of Japan was extremely sharp, especially during the first three frames as he retired all nine batters he faced.
The game was only Tanaka’s second start since returning from a six week stint on the disabled list. The first hit surrendered by the 26 year-old was a lead-off single by Yunel Escobar in the fourth. After Escobar was erased in a double play, Bryce harper took a 1-0 pitch deep into center for his 19th home run of the season. Harper, the National League Player for the Month of May, paces the N.L. in home runs, walks, slugging percentage and OPS. The home run was the third given up by Tanaka in six starts this year; all three were hit at Yankee Stadium,
The major league sophomore gave up three hits in his final three innings of the contest. For the third time this season, Tanaka remained in a game for seven innings. In each of those starts, he recorded a win. Tanaka left the contest having yielded only five hits, a single run and not having walked a batter. He fanned six Washington batters.
Tanaka has won both of his starts this month in a similar fashion. He pitched seven innings, gave up only one run and did not issue a walk. In the two games combined he yielded only eight hits and fanned 15.
Yankee skipper Joe Girardi spoke glowingly of Tanaka’s recent outings, “I think his stuff is as good as last year. That’s as efficient as he’s ever been. That’s command [15 strikeouts and 0 walks. [He’s] just really consistent. His stuff is sharp and he feels good about his stuff.”
Tanaka’s opponent on the mound was former Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, so the 36,613 fans in the park expected a pitchers’ duel. Girardi believes Tanaka thrives in such pressure situations, “I think he enjoys the stage. That’s one of the reasons he came to New York.”
After the game, Tanaka talked about his success on the mound, “I felt pretty good out there. My mechanics and good balance allowed me to throw the ball well. I’m glad I was able to go seven innings and only gave up one run.”
The Yankee sophomore is only the fourth pitcher in major league history to have 17 of his first 26 career starts. He follows Boo Ferriss, Cal Eldred and Steve Rogers in that rare accomplishment.