Saturday, May 31, 2014

Tanaka Time Is Party Time In The Bronx

For nearly 20 years, we Yankee Fans have been spoiled: We've nearly always had a starting rotation full of guys who would be aces or #2 starters on any staff.

Now that we've been hit by the injury bug -- CC Sabathia out until July, Ivan Nova out for the season, and today we found out Michael Pineda has had a setback and we don't know when he's coming back -- we are realizing, possibly for the first time since Ron Guidry was dealing in the mid-1980s, just how valuable an ace can be.

Today, Masahiro Tanaka is that man. He has made a grand total of 11 major league appearances since signing with the Pinstripes, and we've gone 9-2 in those games.

In the 2 losses, we've scored a total of 5 runs, so the losses are hardly all his fault. Then again, in 2 of the wins, we only scored 3 runs each. A lesser pitcher would have had us not nearly as well off.

Today, Tanaka started for the Yankees against the Minnesota Twins. He allowed a run in the 1st inning, but cruised after that: 8 innings, 1 run, 4 hits, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts. Again: The strikeouts are exciting, but they don't mean any more than any other kind of out.

In the bottom of the 4th, Yangervis Solarte hit a home run to tie the game. It was his 6th of the season -- or 3 times as many as Robinson Cano has hit for the Seattle Mariners. (Cano does have more RBIs, but not by much: 31 to 26. Also, his direct replacement at 2nd base, Brian Roberts, while only having 11 RBIs, also has 2 homers.)

With 1 out in the bottom of the 8th, Jacoby Ellsbury singled, stole 2nd, and advanced to 3rd on a bad throw by Twins catcher Josmil Pinto. (Joe Mauer is recovering from an injury, and was their designated hitter.) Roberts drew a walk. Brian McCann sent a rocket to right field, scoring Ellsbury easily. Roberts got to 3rd, McCann to 2nd. Alfonso Soriano was intentionally walked to load the bases. The Twins made a pitching change.

And then there was a rain delay. If the game was then called, under the rules, the score would revert to what it was at the start of the inning: 1-1. Meaning the game would have to be replayed in its entirety.

Fortunately, play resumed. Solarte popped up for the 2nd out. But Kelly Johnson beat out an infield single, and Roberts scored to make it 3-1.

Solarte made an error in the 9th, but, other than that, David Robertson channeled his inner Goose Gossage and struck out the side.

WP: Tanaka (8-1). SV: Robertson (12). LP: Brian Duensing (1-2).

The series concludes tomorrow afternoon. Rookie Chase Whitley goes for the Yankees. And who goes for the Twins? Why none other than the man we refused to trade, 6 years ago, for The Great Johan Santana, a man who helped us reach the Playoffs 5 times, including the 2009 World Championship: Phil Hughes.

How is Hughes doing in Minnesota? Pretty good, actually: He's 5-1 with a 3.23 ERA, and a 1.19 WHIP. Think we could use him now? Well, there's not a whole lot of pressure in Minnesota (it's a hockey State first, a football State second), so we don't know how well he'd be faring in New York now.

I'm happy for him. I just don't want him to do well tomorrow.

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