Friday night in the Bronx a baseball game was played the old way. A pitching duel on the mound from two of Japan’s best, the struggling Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers righthander Yu Darvish. And of course there had to be a winner and a loser.
But neither starter got the decision. This was a classic pitching duel in the Bronx and two fighters going punch-for-punch in a 12-round championship fight.
After a 15th time in Major League history in which both starting pitchers were born in Japan, and after both threw a combined 15 scoreless innings. it came down to the bullpens and a walk-off run scoring single.
And in the Bronx this was an old fashioned baseball duel taking place on the mound. Tanaka had his slider, splitter, and a fastball. Darvich has the curve and this was billed as advertised as they sat, watched and ate breakfast in Japan.
Perhaps this was a different Masahiro Tanaka with motivation because it was a duel with two of the prime pitchers from Japan and now throwing their best stuff in another land known as Major League Baseball.
More importantly, Yankees manager Joe Girardi needs this type of Tanaka for his team to remain as one of the top teams in the league.
Tanaka and Darvish and they dueled. Darvish sat down the Yankees on two hits through seven innings. He struck out 10 and walked one. Tanaka, a different pitcher from his last six outings and allowed three hits through eight innings. He struck out nine and issued two walks.
Who needed the win more? The Yankees who had lost eight of their last nine games and Tanaka delivered. For a change, he did not give up the home run ball. Darvish, also kept the ball in the yard and would have gone another inning or two but some tightness did not permit the duel to continue.
“Two brilliant Japanese pitchers, they faced each other before,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “They were stars in Japan. They were stars here. Pitch for pitch, inning for inning. It was a great ballgame.”
A ballgame that was played the old fashioned way, and because the pitching was dominant. Banister said if you were a fan of the game then this is what the doctor prescribed. It was a crying shame that the outcome went to the bullpens.
“I think it was good for the Japanese fans,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “I don’t know who was more popular in the game, but for me, I’m just glad that I was able to give a pretty good performance.”
And to Girardi, it was a performance that he was looking for. Tanaka is a key component to the Yankees rotation and he had a six game stretch of 0-6 with a 8.91 ERA in seven starts. From the third inning on he retired 16 straight Rangers. This was vintage Tanaka.
But we all know, a fellow pitcher from Japan will not be on the mound next time. What this does for Tanaka, and for the Yankees, is reinforce the confidence and hope the momentum carries to the next start. If not, then the questions will resurface as to what may be wrong with Masahiro Tanaka.
“You get a performance like that from Tanaka you need to win that game,” said Girardi. “We needed it.” The Yankees got the win in 10-innings and Tanaka watched from the bench when Ronald Torreyes got his first career walk-off single.
The manager witnessed a special game as did the 39,602 fans who waited over an hour before the scheduled start due to rain that never came.
It did not matter that they waited. This was an old fashioned pitching duel in the Bronx as Masahiro Tanaka and Yu Darvish delivered what was expected. And the next time Tanaka takes the mound all eyes will be watching.
Because if the Yankees get the real Masahiro Tanaka and consistency that is what they need ,and more than a pitching duel on the mound between two of the best from Japan.