Aces Up — Masahiro Tanaka!!! June 17, 2019: NY 3 Tampa 0

Yankee fans have argued back and forth over the last few years whether Masahiro Tanaka is an ‘Ace’ pitcher. When his splitter is splitting, sinker is sinking, slider is sliding, and his split-fingered fastball is spinning — he is clearly one of the best pitchers in the league. An Ace. In the playoffs, since he arrived in the majors as a Yankee in 2015, he is 3-2 1.50 in 30 IP, 17 H, 25 K’s. (Compare that to Max Scherzer over the same time period — with Washington: 0-2 3.72 in 19 IP 14 H 20 K’s, and Scherzer lifetime in the playoffs of 4-5 3.73 in 82 IP 60 H 100 K’s.)

Tanaka Comes Up BIG in Battle for 1st Place

Tanaka has also consistently come up BIG in big regular-season games and this was a battle for 1st place — with the Yanks coming in .5 games in 1st ahead of 2nd-place Tampa. Tanaka owned the moment — a complete-game 2-hit shutout, on the 41st anniversary of the night that Ron Guidry struck out 18 men and Yankee Stadium fans started the baseball tradition of standing up and clapping for a strikeout with 2 strikes on the batter.

The only time Tanaka appeared even a little bit in trouble was the 4th when Austin Meadows (one of the best young hitters in the AL) hit a rocket that bounced off the middle of the right field wall and came back so fast to Cameron Maybin that he held him to a single. Then Tommy Pham hit a heart attack long fly ball to right that Maybin caught in the warning track. It was as if Tanaka knew exactly how far away the right-field wall was, and was doing the math — throwing the ball with just the right velocity and sinker spin to keep it in the park.

The Defense

In the 5th, gold glove 2nd baseman DJ LeMahieu, playing 2nd (vs 1st or 3rd where the Yanks also play him), robbed a single up the middle and made it into a force play at 2nd for final out of the inning.

In the 6th, Meadows walked and then tried to steal 2nd, but Pham struck out and Gary Sanchez threw a Thurman Munson-like QUICK RELEASE throw to 2nd that was high but Gleyber Torres made a terrific leap-catch-and-tag on Meadows for a strike-em-out throw-em-out double play.

The Offense

The Yanks were up against an excellent pitcher, 25-year-old Yonny Chirinos who entered 7-2, 2.88. They broke through in the 3rd on a 2-run homer by DJ LeMahieu.

In the 5th, Cameron Maybin hit a homer (his 3rd straight game with a homer) — and that was it. Ballgame!

The rest of it was watching Tanaka be Masterful — he went out for the 9th with under 110 pitches thrown, and manager Aaron Boone didn’t try to fix what wasn’t broken.

After the game, a happy Tanaka made Yankee fans everywhere happy.

Other Yanks

Luke Voit (1-3 with a walk), Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez, and Brett Gardner (1-2 with a walk now batting .233 — not dead yet) all got hits. Edwin Encarnacion in his debut as a Yankee went 0-4 with a strikeout. Somewhere in Scranton Clint Frazier has chagrin. After the game, the Yanks optioned Mike Tauchman and added Giancarlo Stanton to the roster.

The Boxscore

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