A collective sigh of relief emanated from Yankee Stadium on Friday night. That’s where Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka snapped out of a dreadful two-start slump with one of the most dominant outings in his MLB career, striking out a career high 13 over 7 1/3 innings against the Oakland Athletics.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a perfect night for Tanaka or the Yankees. The bullpen faltered following Tanaka’s exit, leading to a 4-1 loss. Tanaka ended up the tough luck loser despite allowing just one run. But we’re certain the biggest and brightest takeaway for Yankees fans was that Tanaka looked like his old self after taking them to the brink of panic last weekend.
Tanaka entered having allowed 14 runs over his last two starts, which only accounted for 4 2/3 total innings. Tanaka allowed just as many home runs (seven) as he recorded strikeouts during that stretch, which led to concerns that he might not be one-hundred percent.
Even if the Yankees shared those same concerns, they weren’t about to force Tanaka to undergo an MRI.
“You just don’t scan people,” manager Joe Girardi said of Tanaka on Wednesday. “You just don’t light them up inside. We don’t want to turn him into Spider-Man or Superman or something like that. Radiation is something you have to deal with, so, no, you just don’t scan people to scan them. We have to do that in the airport and none of us like it.”
Mets fans heard similar responses from team brass regarding Noah Syndergaard, and then watched him end up on the 60-day disabled list.
The Yankees patience worked out much better, at least based on Friday’s start. Tanaka pitched his best game since hurling a three-hit shutout against the Red Sox on April 27. It also marked Tanaka’s first double-digit strikeout performance since Sept. 10, 2016 against the Rays. In 11 starts since, Tanaka had not topped six strikeouts in a single outing.
Tanaka looked healthy and pitched confident, attacking an A’s lineup that obviously is not among the best in MLB. The most encouraging sign had to be the 25 swings and misses Tanaka induced, which is an elite number for a single outing.
It’s also worth noting that Austin Romine and not Gary Sanchez was behind the plate on Friday. Tanaka has enjoyed great success working with Romine this season, which had been the case with Sanchez last season. As this graphic shows though, that has changed in 2017.
Austin Romine is behind the dish tonight, and Masahiro Tanaka has enjoyed major success pitching to him in 2017. pic.twitter.com/dCY6xGBcGE
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) May 26, 2017
It’s probably safe to assume Romine will get the assignment more often than not now when it’s Tanaka’s turn.
The biggest thing though is that Tanaka appeared healthy. That means Tanaka can put those two dreadful outings behind him and everyone else associated with the Yankees can sleep a little easier.
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