YANKEES 3, CUBS 0
There were a lot of critics who said that Masahiro Tanaka would find pitching in the United States more challenging because the hitters are so much better. They claimed Tanaka would have to prove he could pitch here.
After Wednesday’s performance at Yankee Stadium against the Cubs, what more proof do those critics need?
Tanaka (2-0) allowed only two bunt singles and struck out 10 en route to eight shutout innings as New York took the first game of a day-night doubleheader by beating Chicago in front of a paid crowd of 36,569.
Carlos Beltran, who was named the American League Player of the Week for last week, gave Tanaka all the run support he really needed by launching his fourth home run of the season into the right-field bleachers with one out in the first inning off right-hander Jason Hammel (2-1).
The Yankees added a single run in the fourth inning after loading the bases with one out and Dean Anna hit a sacrifice fly that scored Brian McCann. They added another run in fifth inning thanks to some strategic thinking by manager Joe Girardi.
With Brett Gardner on third and one out, Jacoby Ellsbury’s bat came in contact with Cubs catcher John Baker’s glove on a swing in what would have been catcher’s interference. Ellsbury would have been awarded first base but Gardner would have had to remain at third.
However, as Hammel tagged out Ellsbury, Gardner touched home plate. Girardi was given the choice by the umpires to take the catcher’s interference our accept the result of play. Girardi wisely chose the result of the play to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.
Hammel did not pitch bad but he was simply out-pitched. He gave up three runs on five hits and three walks while he fanned five over seven innings of work.
After Tanaka gave up a video-review bunt single to Junior Lake with one out in the second inning, he retired the next 14 batters – striking out seven of them – until Anthony Rizzo led off the seventh inning with a bunt single.
The Japanese right-hander only walked one batter and he became the first Yankees’ pitcher to strike out 28 batters in his first three games, breaking Al Leiter’s record of 25 set in 1987.
Shawn Kelley pitched a scoreless ninth to record hid fourth save in as many chances this season.
With the Yankees’ first shutout of the season, they improved their season record to 8-6. The Cubs dropped to 4-9.
- Tanaka was in total command throughout his 107-pitch outing despite the chilly 43-degree temperatures in the Bronx. The fact that the Cubs could only muster two bunt hits just highlights his dominance. He is the first Yankee pitcher to pitch eight shutout innings while striking out at least 10 batters and giving up two or fewer hits since Randy Johnson did it on on July 26, 2005 against the Boston Red Sox.
- Beltran continued his hot hitting by going 1-for-3 with a walk. Since April 7, Beltran is 12-for-29 (.414) with four home runs and seven RBIs. The Yankees signed the 36-year-old veteran outfielder to be a force in the middle of the lineup and he is providing just that.
- Give Kelley credit as the fill-in closer. With Mariano Rivera retired and David Robertson the disabled list, Kelley has been perfect in the ninth inning so far. He is 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA and six strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. He is anchoring a bullpen that has been much better than most experts thought.
Nothing negative here. The Yankees got an early lead and added to it while Tanaka was mowing down Cubs.
The features Bomber Banter and On Deck will be included in the next post.