Masahiro Tanaka pitched very well in five of his six starts in August and there is a chance that he could win the Cy Young if the can continue pitching like he has recently.
In Tanaka’s last three starts of August he allowed two, zero and zero runs, which lowered his ERA from 3.40 to 3.12. In his two starts before that outstanding three game stretch, he gave up one run in six innings and then four runs in seven innings. He was hurt by the long ball as the Rays hit two homers off of him leading to his four runs, but the Rays only had five hits against him and Tanaka recorded eight strikeouts and no walks, which is a great strikeout to walk ratio.
His ERA during August would have been even better if not for the Mets scoring six earned runs against him on August 2 but his ERA for the month was still a very good 3.00. He had a 3.40 ERA after that start at Citi Field against the Mets and it’s now a much improved 3.12. Also, showing his dominance during the month is that he had 38 strikeouts and only one walk. Only allowing one walk in the span of six starts is outstanding control and rarely seen in major league baseball.
Overall this season, Tanaka is seventh in the American League in ERA (3.12), sixth in the AL in WHIP (1.06) and third in the league in K/BB ratio (5.21). His 4.5 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is the seventh highest among qualified starters in the league, the .268 on-base percentage that opponents have against him is the second best in the league and the .360 slugging percentage that opponents have against him is fifth best in the league.
After the All-Star break this season, Tanaka has really excelled as he allowed two runs or less in six of his nine starts. He allowed zero runs in three of those starts and one run twice.
He will definitely be considered for the Cy Young if he can continue pitching at the success rate that he has after the All-Star break. (He will have to not have another start where he allows six runs.) Tanaka currently is not far from being first in ERA in the AL as Aaron Sanchez, who has made 25 starts this season to Tanaka’s 27, has a 2.88 ERA. Tanaka is also close to the pitchers immediately ahead of him as Chris Sale has a 3.10 ERA and Corey Klueber is in 5th place with a 3.09 ERA.
Tanaka has been by far the Yankees best starting pitcher this season. His 11 wins are most on the team by three, his 3.12 ERA is much lower than any other starting pitcher, his 1.06 WHIP is much better than the other starting pitchers, his 16 quality starts are four more than CC Sabathia who is in second place and he has been able to throw 29 more innings that any other pitcher on the team.
Tanaka, who is 27 and in his third season since coming over from Japan, is also on his way to having his best season in pinstripes since he is on track to pitch the whole campaign. In 2014, his rookie season, he had an excellent 2.77 ERA but that was after pitching only 136.1 innings and 20 starts. He has already made 27 starts this season and thrown 173.0 innings, which makes his performance up until now in this season more impressive than 2014.
He signed a 7-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees before the 2014 season and he is pitching this season like he deserved that contract and is beyond the injury he suffered in 2014. In his rookie season, Tanaka was placed on the disabled list in the beginning of July due to right elbow inflammation and an MRI revealed a partially torn UCL. He ended up returning at the end of September after multiple doctors said that Tommy John surgery was not necessary.
The rookie campaign was very impressive for Tanaka and he has been able to dominate even more this season based on the array of plus pitches that he has. He relies primarily on his sinker (90mph), slider (84mph) and splitter (87mph) while also throwing a four-seam fastball, cutter and curve.
The Yankees lost to the Cleveland Indians 3-0 on Saturday afternoon in the second game of the series. The offense only had five hits, and the only player who had a multi-hit game was Jacoby Ellsbury, who had two hits. The Yankees were also collectively 0-9 with runners in scoring position, which led to them not scoring any runs.
However, the pitcher that shutdown the Yankees offense is one of the best pitchers in the American League and by far the best pitcher in the Indians rotation. Corey Kluber pitched six innings and had 10 strikeouts and only one walk. Kluber is tied for the most wins in the AL with 13, is fourth in the AL with a 2.46 ERA and is second in the AL with 187 strikeouts.
Joe Girardi was impressed with how Kluber pitched against the Yankees. “He has just got really good stuff,” Girardi said. “He has got an outstanding slider that he used to right handers and left handers. I know there was a lot of talk about what we faced this week with Detroit, but if you look at the top five guys in the AL, he is right there. You are going to run into guys that have great stuff and sometimes you are going to get them and sometimes they are going to shut you down.”
One of the five hits that the Yankees had was an infield single by the future first ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. That single was his 3,431st hit of his career, which put him in sole possession of sixth place on the all time hits list. He had previously been tied with Honus Wagner for sixth place. Jeter now has more hits than any other shortstop in baseball history.
Girardi is impressed with Jeter’s milestone and how he has performed this season. “It is unbelievable,” Girardi said. “I mean the people that he has passed, it is unbelievable. You know, this guy has been consistent for us all year long, and there were a lot of questions about where he would be at. He has played pretty well.”
Jeter was disappointed that the team lost, but he is proud that he now has more hits than anyone else who has played shortstop. “It is one of those wow moments,” Jeter said. “To have more hits than anyone that has played the position at all is something you can be proud of. Obviously, I would like to have won the game, but it is something I will be able to tell my kids one day about. Like I said, Honus Wagner, he is the last one on the last that played short at all, that one hits home a little bit.”
Brandon McCarthy got the start for the Yankees and picked up his first loss in his six starts with the team. He pitched well, as he only allowed two runs and had eight strikeouts in 6.1 innings, but the two-run homer Jose Ramirez hit off of him in the second ended up being the difference in the game. That was Ramirez’s first career home run.
All-Star Michael Brantley’s homer off of the foul poll in the eighth off of Chase Whitely was the third run that the Indians scored.
The Yankees will look to win the three-game series with Hiroki Kuorda pitching in Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. game. He had his second consecutive solid start on August 5 as he allowed three runs in seven innings. Carlos Carrasco, who is not nearly the pitcher that Kluber is, will be making only his fifth start of the season for the Indians.
Before yesterday’s game, the Yankees honored Paul O’Neill with a much deserved plaque in Monument Park. He was nicknamed the “The Warrior” for his hustle and intensity during games. O’Neill played for the Yankees from 1993-2001 and was an integral part of four World Series winning teams. “Let’s face it, we were all lucky to play for the Yankees, especially at that time,” O’Neill said during his speech.