Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tanaka Hai, España No

When you're beginning a homestand against the 1st-place team in your Division, you want your best pitcher on the mound, and to get a bunch of runs, to make a statement.

The Yankees sent Masahiro Tanaka to the mound in the opener of a home series against those pesky Toronto Blue Jays, and Tanaka did what he has done since he arrived: 6 innings, 1 run, 5 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts.

That 1 run? A leadoff homer from the Jays' overrated shortstop. You might have heard of him: Jose Reyes. After that, Tanaka was brilliant.

That's all you can really ask of a starting pitcher these days: Hold the opposition to as few runs as you can, to give your batters a chance to win the game and your bullpen a chance to nail it down. Tanaka did that again.

Ah, but what about those batters? Was this another case of "Yankee RISPfail"? Not enough to matter, because Tanaka was, once again, as I said, brilliant.

In the bottom of the 3rd, the least powerful hitters in the Yankee order displayed their power. Kelly Johnson doubled, and Brett Gardner hit his 6th home run of the year -- in each case, a line drive to right field. 2-1 Yankees.

Derek Jeter (another shortstop of whom you might have heard) led off the bottom of the 5th with a single. A wild pitch sent him to 2nd. Jacoby Ellsbury grounded him over to 3rd, and Mark Teixeira singled him home.

That made it 3-1 Yankees, and the bullpen made that hold up: Between them, Dellin Betances and David Robertson allowed just 1 baserunner in 3 innings.

WP: Tanaka (11-1). SV: Robertson (17). LP: Marcus Stroman (3-2).

Tanaka to Robertson isn't quite Pettitte to Rivera, or Guidry to Gossage, or Ford to Arroyo, or Reynolds to Page, or Gomez to Murphy, or even Hoyt to Moore. But it's been incredibly effective.

The series continues tonight, with our fine farm system nugget Chase Whitley taking the hill against the wily veteran Mark Buehrle. This will be an excellent test for Whitley, certainly the biggest game of his young career, and the best pitcher he's yet opposed.


Speaking of old-time Yankees: Spain, which won the 2010 World Cup and the European Championship in 2008 and 2012, is doing a great impression of the 1965 Yankees. Their dynasty has crashed to Earth in this year's World Cup.

Losing 5-1 to the Netherlands in a rematch of the 2010 Final was shocking enough. But, today, they lost 2-0 to Chile. And they didn't have the handy excuse of a sendoff: They were playing with 11 men throughout. With the Netherlands beating Australia earlier, the Dutch and the Chileans have clinched spots in the knockout round, and Spain are out!

This is the 4th time in the last 6 World Cups, that the defending champion has crashed out in the Group Stage: 1990-94 Argentina, 1998-2002 France, 2006-10 Italy, 2010-14 Spain. (Brazil won in 1994 and made the Final again in 1998, then won in 2006 and at least made the Quarterfinal in 2006.)

But nobody expected Spain to fall apart like this. They had the experience. They had the mean streak. And they had the health: No significant injuries.

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