Tanaka dominates Cubs, Yankees win first game of doubleheader 3-0


That was worth the wait. After Tuesday night’s game was rained out, the Yankees won the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Cubs by the score of 3-0 thanks to a dominant pitching performance and some timely hitting. Pretty much a textbook win.

Tanaka applauds in approval of his own outing. (Elsa/Getty)

Tanaka applauds in approval of his own outing. (Elsa/Getty)

He’s Ours And You Can’t Have Him
The Cubs reportedly pursued Masahiro Tanaka very aggressively this winter, and at times it appeared they were the front-runner to sign him. Instead, Tanaka wound up in New York with the Yankees, and on Wednesday afternoon he faced the team that tried so desperately to sign him.

In his third big league start, Tanaka held the admittedly unimpressive Chicago lineup to two bunt singles in eight scoreless innings. The first had to be reviewed because it was a bang-bang play, the second was a bunt to beat the shift by Anthony Rizzo. Tanaka struck out ten, walked one (his second walk of the season), and at one point he retired 14 batters in a row from the second through seventh innings. This was pretty clearly the best we’ve seen him in his three starts.

Of his 107 pitches, Tanaka threw 76 strikes (71%), including 16 swings and misses. Twenty of 27 batters saw a first pitch strike and only two saw a three-ball count. Just dominant. Here is his PitchFX breakdown from Brooks Baseball, though it appears to be missing eight pitches somewhere. I do want to point out that of the 29 splitters Tanaka threw, the Cubs swing at 17. They missed ten times. That is pretty nuts.

The Yankees limited Tanaka to 97 pitches and 101 pitches in his first two starts, though they sent him back out for the eighth inning with his pitch count at 97 on Wednesday. He only threw ten more pitches in that inning, but even if he had thrown 15-20 more, I don’t think it would have been a big deal at all. Tanaka was pitching on two extra days of rest — he was scheduled to start on one day of rest on Tuesday, but the rainout pushed him back another day — and his next start will be on an extra day as well. He was on cruise control all afternoon. Basically a no stress outing. What a stud.



A Swing And A Slide
Thanks to Monday’s off-day and the rainout, the hot-hitting Carlos Beltran had two straight days off. If there was any concern about him losing his swing during the longer than usual layoff, he put it to bed right in the very first inning, clubbing a hanging changeup from Jason Hammel out to right field for a solo homer. His swing is just so, so sweet. From both sides of the plate too. The quick strike gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead.

The team nursed that lead until the fourth inning, when they loaded the bases on a single (Brian McCann, over the shift), a walk (Yangervis Solarte), and another single (Kelly Johnson) with one out. The not-so-fearsome duo of Dean Anna and Scott Sizemore were due up, and Anna took care of business with a sacrifice fly to shallow right-center field. McCann chugged home and slide under the tag. I think he would have been awarded the plate anyway because catcher John Baker was pretty clearly blocking it, which is now against the rules. One homer, one extended rally. Something for everyone.

Wait, How Did That Run Score?
I’ve watched an embarrassing amount of baseball in my life, but I have never before seen what happened in the fifth inning of this game. With Brett Gardner on third and one out, Baker was called for catcher’s interference on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s swing. The ball bounced off the plate and into the infield, allowing Gardner to score while Ellsbury was tagged out. However, because of the catcher’s interference, Gardner had to stay at third and Ellsbury was awarded first base. Except that’s not what happened.

Apparently managers are allowed to decline a catcher’s interference call and accept the outcome of the play. Yeah, I didn’t know that either. Here is the applicable rule, Rule 6.08(c):

The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when — The catcher or any fielder interferes with him. If a play follows the interference, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire that he elects to decline the interference penalty and accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batsman, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, the play proceeds without reference to the interference.

Since Gardner scored on the play, Joe Girardi declined the catcher’s interference and took the run. Instead of having men on the corners with one out, the bases were empty with two outs and a run in. I’d make that trade too. Give me the sure run in a reasonably close game every time. That’s so weird though. Who knew you could decline penalties in baseball? Here’s the video.



Tanaka’s eight innings spared the bullpen for the second game of the doubleheader. Shawn Kelley was the only reliever used and he allowed a soft single to right in an otherwise uneventful ninth, throwing 22 pitches. No idea if he’ll be available for tonight’s game. Worry about that when the time comes, I guess. Kelley has somehow saved four games already.

The Yankees only had five hits themselves, one each by Gardner (double), Beltran (homer), Ellsbury (double), McCann (single), and Johnson (single). Beltran and Ellsbury drew walks — Ellsbury stole second after his walk in the eighth — while Solarte drew two. Alfonso Soriano and Sizemore were the only guys to not do anything productive at the plate. The bases loaded situation in the fourth inning was the only time they had multiple runners on base at the same time.

The ten strikeouts give Tanaka 28 strikeouts in his first three starts, breaking Al Leiter’s old franchise record of 25 strikeouts. Believe it or not, Tanaka is the only pitcher in history to throw at least seven innings and record at least eight strikeouts in each of his first three starts. Pretty cool.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. Those standings will change in a few hours.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Let’s play two! The Yankees will look to complete the doubleheader sweep in a few hours. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and will feature Michael Pineda against lefty Travis Wood. Derek Jeter and his sore quad will return to the lineup in that game.

Categories : Game Stories


  1. Rick says:

    Fastest write up ever? Well done, Axisa. Well done.

  2. TheRealGreg says:

    Always such a great feeling to win the first game of a doubleheader. Takes the second game from a “must win” to a “want to win” And with Pineda pitching, we might be in for a sweep

    • Mike Axisa says:

      It’s April 16th. Nothing is a must win.

      • TheRealGreg says:

        I meant a must win in terms of the stats around a doubleheaders. Doubleheaders are rarely swept either way

        • Tom says:

          You mention this every time there is a doubleheader and it is still wrong

          Over the last 10 years more doubleheaders are swept than split.

          Just think about it for a second – one team has to win game one; even if the next game is 50/50 it means an equal # of sweeps and splits. And since most matchups aren’t quite 50/50 you end up with slightly more sweeps.

          Can’t find the right link for the last few years but (Sweeps-splits):
          2008 – 14-11
          2007 – 12-10
          2006 – 10-13
          2005 – 7-11
          2004 – 23-15
          2003 – 20-8
          2002 – 14-10

          Unless of course by “rare” you mean “the majority of the time”

      • Rick says:

        Technically … but it’s nice to add to the win column when the game in April is worth as the game in September.

      • W.B. Mason Williams says:

        “He’s Ours And You Can’t Have Him”

        Truer words were never spoken.

        I hope Cashman is scheming extension plans as we speak.

      • mustang says:

        “It’s April 16th. Nothing is a must win.”

        Except for Stephen Drew of course.


      • nycsportzfan says:

        The only reason its not a must win, is because none of us know the future, and what this season will hold, but one things for sure, these games all count, and any one of em could be the difference of making or missing the postseason.

      • Kevin G. says:

        Hey, every win in April is one less “must-win” in September

      • Mikhel says:

        Still the “a-win-is-a-win”-o-meter is at 1.

    • mustang says:

      I wouldn’t say its a “must win” but important because:

      1- 6 and 3 home stand looks a lot better then 5 and 4

      2- The 2 young stud starter going against a weak team they should get those wins.

      3- After this they face a beastly 7 game road trip to Tampa and Boston with a TBA starter in one game.

      So yes nothing is a “must win” in April, but this next game is important right now.

  3. JGYank says:

    Just an awesome start from Tanaka. He didn’t even give up any non bunt hits. I know it’s against the Cubs, but that was impressive. Was in complete control. Saved the pen for the 2nd game too. Need to get a Tanaka jersey.

  4. Sean C says:

    According to ESPN, Tanaka’s game score of 87 is the third best pitched game this season. Nifty.

    • nycsportzfan says:

      I thought it might of been the best pitching performance in the majors this yr so far, so i’m not surprised, its right up there.

      • Winter says:

        Unfortunately, it wasn’t even the best pitching performance this afternoon (Johnny Cueto: 9IP, 3H, 0BB, 0 ER, 12K). Fortunately, that doesn’t matter — Tanaka was still unbelievable.

  5. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    It’s kinda cute how WPA starts at 50/50 for a Cubs/Yanks game…

  6. Looser Trader Droids Kenobi FotD™ says:

    Man. Totally dominant. Completely awesome.

    Tanaka (and Pineda) are becoming must-see baseball, like Harvey was last year for that other NY team.

  7. notsosmart says:

    So who’s going to close if Kelley doesn’t go?

    Thornton? Warren?

  8. I'm One says:

    So I didn’t get to see the game, or even follow it on raido or MLB Game Day. I take it Tanaka did OK.

  9. Havok9120 says:

    That was so much fun. Ells and Beltran are both on a nice tear.

  10. Yankeefan91 says:

    i love how Tanaka says hes struggled in his first 2 starts any other pitcher would had said they pitch a great game.

    • TWTR says:

      It’s all relative, but yes.

    • notsosmart says:

      Believe me, as someone who moved to the US from a foreign country… it takes a while to get adjusted to a new culture. The fact that he’s doing so well already, is a testament to his adaptability and work ethic. (And I guess the Yankees, who by now know a thing or two about integrating foreign players who are FOTB).

  11. Jeff says:

    But But the V-LO…… He is no Darvish.

    • I'm One says:

      Funny, I was having this conversation with a friend last week. He kept coming back to “but for th money they paid, they should have gotten someone that can throw 95+!”.

      Yes, Darvish was a better value, but it was a different scenario. I’m still glad they got Tanaka.

  12. mustang says:

    Missed the game working OT, but the highlights told it all. Like I said before Tanaka and Pineda are key not only for today, but for the future of this team.

    Team Sizemore had a tough first game, but it’s only one game.

    • MartinRanger says:

      He got called out on a 3-2 inside pitch that was probably a ball. But yeah, not optimal.

    • I'm One says:

      Tanaka and Pineda are key not only for today, but for the future of this team.

      If Nova can be a solid #3, and CC can be something other than a 5 (which I’m still confident he can be), they’ve got a very solid front 4 to the rotation for years to come.

      Manny Banuelos, come on up!

    • Chip Rodriguez says:

      Team Sizemore looked solid in the field. Better than Team Drew.

  13. Ethan says:

    Can someone explain what the two lines mean on the WPA graph. I get what the old line (green one) is. But not this new gray line.

  14. Steinbrenner's Ghost says:

    Tanaka is the Ace.

    there, I said it.

    • Winter says:

      Not if my boy Big Mike has anything to say about it.

      • I'm One says:

        Co-Aces. I’ll take it.

      • JGYank says:

        Fight to the death for the #1 spot!

        In all seriousness I want my ace to give me 200+ IP and be able to go at least 100 pitches and have a chance at 7+ IP per every time out. Can’t see Pineda doing that this year. Will be hard for Tanaka as well with the transition. That’s why CC was such a valuable ace for a while. If he was pitching well (and he usually was), you never had to worry about him not going deep into games or failing to eat up innings. Still can eat up innings, just hasn’t pitched as well as he used to.

      • Looser trader droids Kenobi FotD™ says:

        Hulk smash

  15. hey now says:

    “watched an embarrassing amount of baseball in my life”

    No such thing. Don’t be swayed by people (let’s admit it, mainly our wives and/or girlfriends) who don’t get it.

    It’s the greatest game ever invented. There’s no shame at all in admitting you’re an addict.

    • Yankenstein says:

      Admitting it is one of the first steps to a life of contentment.

    • Evan3457 says:

      I was contemplating it this week, and one reason (of many) that it’s the greatest game is that it’s the only major sport which doesn’t use tie-breakers for playoff spots.

      If tied, you have to play your way in, jack.

  16. willie w says:

    tanaka should have stayed in for the shutout

    • Pineda Colada says:

      I kind of agree with you. ..He was on 2 extra days of rest and will get another extra day before boston…I would have liked to see him finish the game and save Kelley for the night game

    • Ethan says:

      A win is a win. I’m fine with the decision to take him out. They won the game is all that matters. Who knows, Tanaka might have gotten hurt, or not been as effective in his next game (a more important game than the Cubs). If Kelly had imploded then I would agree with you but they got the W.

  17. dee dubs says:

    Considering only Tanaka & Kelly pitched in game 1, why not start Vidal and back him up with Phelps & Co? Give Big Mike and extra day and have a MLB starter pitch against Tampa on Sunday. The way this division is shaping up could make a difference…

  18. The Other Matt says:

    In the famous words of a former Cub and Hall of Famer, “It’s a great day for a ball game; let’s play two!”

  19. The Other Matt says:

    Yankees lineup for the second game, tonight:

    1. Brett Gardner (L) CF
    2. Derek Jeter (R) SS
    3. Carlos Beltran (S) DH
    4. Alfonso Soriano (R) LF
    5. Yangervis Solarte (S) 2B
    6. Ichiro Suzuki (L) RF
    7. Scott Sizemore (R) 3B
    8. Kelly Johnson (L) 1B
    9. J.R. Murphy (R) C

    I knew Girardi would start Ichiro the second game, just wasn’t sure who he would sit out; now I see it’s Ellsbury.

    • stuckey says:

      Oh man, wish Warren Buffet was giving away a billion for guessing the line-up. I got it this morning.

      Oh, cept I had Johnson 6.

      Oh well, I still have my health.

      • The Other Matt says:

        I’d have to side with you in that regard. I much rather see KJ in the 6th spot with Ichiro 8th, but such is life.

    • Preston says:

      I’m a little surprised that the guy who’s missed two years to knee surgeries and just got called up is starting both games. I get that Anna is a lefty, but I think I’d rather see him at 2b and Solo at 3b.

  20. JGYank says:

    The Blue Jays are the only team with a positive run differential in the AL east right now. Lol. Yanks are on a 3 game winning streak and are 8-6 (tied for 1st with the Jays) with a -2 run differential (52 RS 54 RA).

    • Preston says:

      It’s SSS, the 9 run loss to the Orioles is weighing too heavily into the mix right now. This does not look like a team that is going to have a negative run differential at the end of the season.

  21. stuckey says:

    Fun w/ stats, post-Mariano Rivera. Yanks tied team record today with 7th straight save w/o a blown save to start a season. Also done in '74.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) April 16, 2014

    When does the Shawn Kelley farewell tour begin?

  22. Wheels says:

    Tanaka and Pineda will become the new twin towers on the NYC skyline.

  23. Mikhel says:

    Tanaka looked amazing today, I wonder if it was because:

    a) McCann knows the Cubs lineup and their weaknesses and how to pitch them;

    b) The Cubs lineup is ok but not very good against a good pitcher;

    c) Tanaka is a beast of a pitcher who feeds off the fear and confusion of rival batters.

    d) All of the above.

  24. Mikhel says:

    I’d have loved it JoeG had given Tanaka the chance to close his game and end up with a shutout. Masahiro looked very comfortable; I remember how long it took Andy to get his first shutout as he reluctantly left the mound whenever he was lifted by JoeT.

    Fun with words: Más in spanish is “more” (like when adding 1+1 = 1 más 1). More a Hero… ok ok ok too soon to call him that I don’t want to jinx it.

    Fabulous day, beautiful overall today… thank god the beach is 5 min away from my house, though the water is cold as ssshhhhiiiii…

    • Yankee$ says:

      Thankfully, Shutouts were one of the first Counting statistics that managers stopped giving a crap about.

      • Preston says:

        I would have liked to see him do it. Joe probably made the right call given that Tanaka has thrown only 97 and 101 pitches in his first two starts, giving him another inning pushing him up to 120 or so on such a cold day probably isn’t a great idea. If this game was a month or two from now I would have totally said go for it.

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