Never doubt Masahiro Tanaka. The crafty right-hander staked his claim as the Yankees’ ace and tossed a two-hitter to give the Yankees a 3-0 win. DJ LeMahieu and Cameron Maybin provided the offense.
Let’s get to the takeaways!
For the third time this season, Masahiro Tanaka faced the Rays. For the third straight time, he was dominant.
Tanaka brought his game up for the division battle and it showed. He mowed down the first nine batters he faced and faced little trouble en route to a two-hit shutout. It was the longest outing for a Yankee this season and his fourth career complete game.
Sometimes, an ace pitcher goes for a lot of strikeouts and sees his pitch count skyrocket. Instead, while Tanaka got plenty of swings and misses, he got ahead of batters and made quick work from there.
On 24 of the 29 batters he faced, he either got ahead 1-2 or recorded an out by pitch three. That’s efficiency at it’s finest.
Perhaps the only moment he faced trouble was after the Yankees had given him a 2-0 lead in the fourth. He allowed his first hit of the game — a stinging single off the right field wall — and had to face a red-hot Tommy Pham. How many times have we seen a big homer in this spot in recent games? Tanaka made the pitches he needed to, getting Pham to fly out on a splitter down the heart of the plate.
Tanaka didn’t miss many splitter after that. He kept a few below the zone to get swings and misses early and got two swinging strikeouts at the bottom of the zone to close the seventh inning. In full, he got five swings and misses on 22 splitters, while getting 13 on 44 sliders, 23 swinging misses in total.
The Rays, in total, went 0-for-25 against his slider and splitter (h/t Jack Curry).
In all, it took 111 pitches, 10 strikeouts and just two batters over the minimum for him to topple the Rays in easily the Yankees’ best outing of the year.
Masahiro Tanaka is 1st Yankee to throw a shutout with 2 hits or fewer, 10+ K and 1 BB or fewer since Mike Mussina on Sept, 2, 2001 vs Red Sox.— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) June 18, 2019
2. Hey DJ, Call Me Maybin
The Yankees’ offense basically came down to three swings, two from Cameron Maybin and one from DJ LeMahieu. Imagine saying that to a Yankee fan in January!
Yonny Chirinos steamrolled the Yankees for the first seven outs, matching Tanaka out for out. That changed when Maybin grounded a ball up the middle for a single. He’d reach second after Kevin Kiermaier booted it, but that didn’t matter when LeMahieu came to the plate.
Chirinos left a slider over the middle of the plate on the first pitch and DJ pounced.
LeMahieu has been mostly a singles and doubles hitter this season, but he’s begun to show some pop. That’s three extra-base hits in four games and his fourth homer in his last 17 games. Not amazing, but notable power. Luke Voit walked and Aaron Hicks doubled, but Chirinos struck out Sanchez on three pitches to limit the damage.
Two innings later, Maybin led off and got ahead 2-1. Chirinos is known for throwing his sinker when behind in the count and again, he made a mistake, leaving it smack in the middle of the plate.
That’s three straight games with a homer this year, joining Sanchez and Hicks as the only Yankees to do that this season. It was the Yankees 20th straight game with a home run, the second longest streak in franchise history (1941).
Maybin has made a strong case to stay on the roster and his 3-for-3 night certainly adds to it. Whether it’s going to seven relievers or whatever else, it may be worth going with a non-ideal roster setup to keep him in the organization.
3. Encarnacion makes impact with impacting ball
OK, so the big news before the game was the pinstriped debut of Edwin Encarnacion. The designated hitter batted fifth and went 0-for-4, not exactly the most consequential of games. Still, he made his mark without a big home run.
In his first at-bat, he took two hefty hacks and missed, putting himself down 1-2. Hitters just as good as Encarnacion swung and missed at Chirinos’ parade of sliders and splitters, but Edwin fouled pitch after pitch. It took him until the 10th pitch for Chirinos to get a ball by him.
Coming up in the fourth inning, he took two balls before lining a ball right to the shortstop. He hit it 95.1 mph and had an expected batting average of .910. It goes in the box score as an out, but it proved more than that.
To close the sixth inning, he made Chirinos work again. Again down 1-2, he took a ball before fouling off four straight offspeed pitches. He hit a 92 mph groundout on pitch nine.
Finally, in the eighth, he flew out against Adam Kolarek with two men on and one out. Too bad.
In full, Encarnacion saw 25 pitches, the 22 against Chirinos comprising more than a fifth of his work. He didn’t directly lead to a run, but he may have helped take an inning off of the young right-hander’s night or made him labor. That’s not nothing and on many nights will produce results.
- The Rays went to four outfielders on Gleyber Torres in the seventh inning and struck him out for the third time in the evening. They tried it again on Voit in the eighth, but the first baseman singled in front of Kiermaier. Results inconclusive.
- Brett Gardner walked and singled in three plate appearances. Another guy who’s making the case for continued playing time.
- LeMahieu grounded out with two men on in the seventh (Maybin and Gardner) and grounded into a double play in the fifth. Can’t homer every time!
- Luke Voit walked and singled while the 4-7 hitters (Sanchez, Encarnacion, Gregorius, Torres) went 1-for-15 with six strikeouts.
- Finally, LeMahieu made a defensive stop in the fifth inning to get Tanaka’s adulation.
Game 2 of this series comes tomorrow night and it’ll be J.A. Happ (6-3 4.66 ERA) opposed potentially by an opener followed by fellow southpaw Ryan Yarbrough (5-3, 5.59). It’ll be a 7:05 first pitch on YES, though there’s some rain in the forecast.