Game 118: Tanaka’s gem earns the Yankees 1-0 victory

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After game-after-game of homer ball, the Yankees played to a 1-0 finish and came out on top thanks to a gem from Masahiro Tanaka. They are now 77-41 on the season and earned a split with the Blue Jays.

Let’s get to the takeaways.

1. Tanaka has found something, even without swings and misses

Masahiro Tanaka had his second best line of the year: 8 innings, 3 hits, no walks, 4 strikeouts and no runs in earning a victory Sunday. He consistently got soft contact plus a little help from his defense and had enough command to keep the ball in the strike zone. In short, it was classic Tanaka, which we haven’t seen enough this year.

However, his splitter wasn’t as effective as his last couple starts, at least in terms of getting swings and misses. It got none. He got eight swings and misses in total, all on his slider. In total, he threw the slider 35 times while using his fastball and splitter/forkball 27 times each.

But not gunning for strikeouts allowed Tanaka to pitch deep into the game. The Jays hit the ball 86.1 mph on average with just one barrel, a fifth-inning flyout by the red-hot Teoscar Hernandez. The first hit he gave up was on the infield and next baserunner came on an error by DJ LeMahieu.

And the Yankees needed the length today. The bullpen was used for 10 innings the last two days and there’s a doubleheader tomorrow. Even with two fresh Triple-A arms up, the Yankees were surely glad to save their bullets for Monday and Tuesday.

2. The offense was lacking, but it was enough

The Yankees didn’t do much offensively today. I mean, they only scored one run. No home runs. This was not a representative outing for the Bombers, though it was enough. And that’s fine, even if it won’t do most games.

Jays starter Trent Thornton kept the Yankees off-balance for the first four innings. The Yanks went 12 up, 12 down as he leg-kicked and fired his way through the lineup.

That changed with a defensive mistake in the fifth inning. Center fielder Teoscar Hernandez, a poor fielder by any metric, went back on a soft flyball by Gio Urshela. By the time he recovered and charged in, it was too late. Urshela hustled into second with a double.

And then Brett Gardner lined a ground-rule double to give the game its only run. He smacked it 105.8 mph, the hardest-hit ball of the game, and it reminded me of his swing for his first career home run, which also was to right field at Rogers Centre.

The Yankees loaded the bases in the sixth inning with a walk, infield single and hit-by-pitch and Urshela came up. He fought through a bunch of pitches and hit a hard grounder right at Justin Smoak for a 3-2-3 GIDP. It was much harder than his double (96.7 vs. 78.3 mph), but that’s baseball for you.

In all, the Yankees had only five hits. Urshela and Gardner were the only back-to-back hits of the game and the only extra-base hits.

3. Chapman vs. Guerrero was a sight to behold

After Tanaka allowed a single to start the ninth, Aaron Boone called on Aroldis Chapman. The Blue Jays called on Vladimir Guerrero Jr. A classic ensued.

Much in the vein of the 2015 epic of Miller v. Tulowitzki, this at-bat was a nailbiting, watch-between-your-fingers, anxiety-inducing matchup. Vladito has had winning hits against the Yankees twice already this season and was the winning run at the plate.

Chapman got ahead 0-2 and then Vlad fouled off everything he could handle. Sliders, 100+ mph fastballs. Everything. He hit a foul home run and just missed on a couple of other pitches. The count went to 3-2.

And on the 13th pitch, Chapman got a grounder right to Gleyber Torres, who turned a 6-4-3 double play. While Bo Bichette would single on a 3-2 count of his own, Chapman got Cavan Biggio swinging on a full count to finish off the wing. It took 27 exhausting pitches, but that’s what these young Jays do.

Chapman was the Yankees’ only reliever used, so they should have the full complement of arms ready to go for Monday’s doubleheader.

4. Leftovers

  • This is the first 1-0 Yankees win since Aug. 15, 2016, when starter Chad Green outdueled R.A. Dickey in another Yankees-Blue Jays game.
  • Urshela finished with two hits after singling in the ninth. Romine had a single in the eighth while Aaron Judge hit a 50-foot squibber that Thornton misplayed into a hit in the sixth. Nearly led to runs.
  • LeMahieu walked while Gary Sanchez was hit by a pitch. The Yankees went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
  • Yankees got a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play in the first inning as Tanaka got Biggio swinging on a well-placed slider and Torres kept the tag on Bichette, who overslid the bag.

The Yankees have a pair of games tomorrow back in the States as the Orioles come to town. Neither team has announced a starter, though James Paxton and John Means should each be on line to pitch in those games. They’ll be 1:05 p.m. on YES and 7:05 on WPIX 11. Day baseball during the workweek is often fun.

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5 Comments

  1. Tanaka had his ‘A’ game today against a lineup that, even with Vlad Jr, has been raking. It’s very encouraging to see him command the bottom of the strike zone with both the slider and split whie not being afraid of throwing some 4 seamers at the top of the zone to keep hitters honest.

    It will be interesting to see if he can sustain it the next time out-if so, he gives the Yankees a high end starter for the postseason.

    Also, the Chapman-Vlad Jr AB was epic, period-the Jays could have a pretty solid team in a 2-3 years with the new core of Vlad Jr, Bichette and Biggio. It’s too bad that the Yankees drafted the ‘lesser’ of the Bichette boys (not that they had a choice).

    • Wire Fan

      Vladito and Bo are legit, but I think Biggio is a bit overhyped and is getting a halo effect as he just gets lumped in with the other two as he also has a major leaguer as a dad. Gurriel Jr looks like a young good bat though.

  2. Mama Said Tanaka-you Out

    What a game! Love 1-0 nail biters, especially when we get the W!

  3. CountryClub

    Chapman has morphed into Wetteland. Rarely has an easy outing these days. But, he got the job done. BTW, the Os just blew a game to Hou in the most Os way ever.

    • CountryClub

      Look at that, Balt pulled out the W after all.

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