The New York Yankees celebrated a comeback win last night, tying the game at 3-3 in the eighth inning on a three-run home run from first basemen Mark Teixeira and walking off in the bottom of the 12th on a three-run shot by catcher Brian McCann. While that was the story after the game, the story heading in was the start by pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
Many were eager to see how Tanaka would pitch after suffering the worst two-game stretch of his Yankee career. Over his past two starts against the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros, Tanaka threw 10 innings, giving up 11 earned runs (13 overall), walking four and striking out 11. The biggest concern, however, were the three home runs he gave up in each game, as he had never before given up more than 2 home runs in any start in the majors.
Much was said about his location. A lot of the hits he gave up in those starts were because of his inability to locate like he usually does, leaving splitters and sliders up in the zone. Prior to the game, analyst Jack Curry of the Yankees television network YES noted how Tanaka “hasn’t had the command of that fastball” and it was important to watch his off-speed pitches to see if he could be more precise with them.
Larry Rothschild, the Yankees pitching coach, downplayed Tanaka’s struggles, saying during the week “everybody goes through it (bad starts). There’s adjustments you have to make, and I think he’s going through that period right now,” according to Newsday.
Tanaka certainly showed he made some adjustments, going six innings, giving up six hits, three runs and striking out five. It was not as dominant as he has shown he can be, but it certainly showed a lot of improvement. “I thought he threw a pretty good game … It was much better … The stuff is there. He just had better location tonight. He didn’t have it with the two splits in the first inning, but after that it was really pretty good,” Manager Joe Girardi said after the game.
Girardi was referring to the first inning, where it looked as though Tanaka would struggle again after giving up a leadoff double to designated hitter Grady Sizemore, followed by a walk to right fielder Joey Butler, a double to third baseman Evan Longoria and a sacrifice fly to first baseman James Loney. Tanaka settled down after that, throwing five more innings and only surrendering another run in the fifth after giving up a leadoff triple to center fielder Kevin Kiermaier and a sacrifice fly to catcher Rene Rivera.
Every start with Tanaka always holds a little extra concern because of his injury history, but now with six starts under his belt since coming off the disabled list on June 3, the team will hope to see Tanaka settle back into his dominant form and pitch like the number one starter he can be on a consistent basis. His next start is scheduled for Thursday July 9 against the Oakland Athletics at Yankee Stadium.
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