Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, Starting Pitcher

Masahiro Tanaka



Status: Active
Position: Starting Pitcher
Bats/Throw: Right/Right
How Acquired: Free Agent, 2014
Contract: 7 years, $155 million (2014-2020, opt out after 2017)
Awards: None
World Series Championships: None
Shop for Masahiro Tanaka merchandise

Yankeemetrics: Babe Sanchez does it again [Aug. 22-24]

(AP)
(AP)

Gary is Good
Despite the superhuman feats of a scorching-hot Gary Sanchez, not to mention a two-dinger night from the streaky Starlin Castro, the Yankees still managed to lose the opener in Seattle, 7-5. It snapped their eight-game winning streak at Safeco Field, which was tied with the White Sox (2011-12) for the longest by any opponent at the ballpark.

Sanchez added yet another chapter to his Baby Bomber tale, crushing two more home runs to bring his total to eight in 19 career games. He is the first Yankee to hit at least eight homers before playing in his 20th big-league game, and just the fourth American League player in the last 100 seasons to do it. The others? Carlos Delgado (Blue Jays), Alvin Davis (Mariners) and George Scott (Red Sox).

The right-handed hitting Dominican also added a single, giving him 54 total bases since his debut in the bigs. Only one other Yankee has compiled at least 50 total bases this early into his major-league career (first 19 games), and you might have heard of him before: Joe DiMaggio.

Starlin Castro was Sanchez’s co-star on Monday night, going deep twice for his first multi-homer game in pinstripes. Castro and Sanchez became the first Yankees age 26 or younger to each hit at least two homers in the same game since September 23, 1973, when Ron Blomberg and Otto Velez did it in a 9-1 rout against the Indians.

Castro and Sanchez’s numbers became a mere footnote in history and not part of a winning effort when Anthony Swarzak served up a hanging slider to Mike Zunino, who deposited the pitch into the right-field seats to give the Mariners a 6-5 lead.

In his postgame press conference, Girardi said that he went to Swarzak “because of his slider,” an interesting comment given these stats:

  • Eight of the 10 homers that Swarzak has allowed this season have come off his slider
  • Opponents are slugging .682 (!) off Swarzak’s slider, the highest mark among the 150-plus pitchers that have thrown at least 200 sliders this year
(USA Today)
(USA Today)

An old guy steals the spotlight
On a day when the lineup’s young superstar was mortal, the Yankees got masterful performance from the rotation’s elder statesman, CC Sabathia, and beat the Mariners, 5-1, to even the series at a game apiece.

Sabathia, mired in a miserable 11-game stretch during which he posted a 6.78 ERA, was brilliant as he delivered a vintage performance to help stop the Yankees two-game losing streak. He fired seven innings of one-run ball, allowing just three hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in what was his best outing since mid-June.

While Sabathia’s dominant effort might have been surprising given his recent struggles, it shouldn’t have been given his history of pitching extremely well in the Pacific Northwest. Overall, he’s 9-1 with a 2.09 ERA in 13 career starts at Safeco Field, the second-best ERA among the 51 pitchers than have made at least 10 starts at the ballpark.

He’s also a perfect 5-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 0.961 WHIP in six starts at Safeco as Yankee. Going back 100 years, that ERA is the second-lowest mark any Yankee pitcher has posted at any ballpark where he’s made at least five starts. The guy atop the list is Mel Stottlemyre, who had a 1.25 ERA in nine starts at Anaheim Stadium from 1966-73.

Sanchez didn’t go yard in this game but he still maintained a near-record-breaking pace to start his career by going 1-for-4 with a walk. His 26 hits as a major-leaguer are tied with Bob Meusel for the third-most by any Yankee (since at least 1913) in his first 20 MLB games. The only others with more are Joe DiMaggio (37!!) and Oscar Azocar (28).

(AP)
(AP)

The Gary and Tanaka Show
The Yankees shut out the Mariners, 5-0, in the rubber game of this series thanks to the amazing and unprecedented — yet somehow predictable — performances by Gary Sanchez and Masahiro Tanaka.

The Yankees’ underrated ace spun another gem, tossing seven scoreless innings with five strikeouts while lowering his ERA to 3.11. The only “blemish” was a third-inning walk to Seth Smith, the first free pass he’d issued since July 27.

That snapped a streak of four straight starts with at least 25 batters faced and zero walks, the longest by a Yankee since David Wells in 2003. Tanaka also saw his fantastic run of three straight games with at least eight punch outs and no walks come to an end, which was tied for a major-league record.

Tanaka is now up to five starts of at least seven scoreless innings pitched, the most among all American League pitchers. Entering Thursday, Tanaka was third among AL starters in strikeout-to-walk ratio, third in FIP, sixth in innings pitched, sixth in WHIP and seventh in ERA. He is the only AL pitcher ranked in the top-7 in each of those categories this season. And, oh yeah, he’s tied with Corey Kluber for the league lead in fWAR (Fangraphs version of Wins Above Replacement).

Sanchez wasted little time in continuing his homer barrage as he crushed a mammoth 420-foot shot into the left-center field seats on the first pitch he saw, his franchise-record ninth home run in 21 career games. His light-tower power is crazy: He’s now hit more 400-foot homers (seven) than every other Yankee this season except for Starlin Castro (11), and remember, Sanchez has only been a full-time player since August 3.

Gary added another double in the fifth inning, giving him 15 extra-base hits as a major-leaguer. The only Yankee to reach 15 career extra-base hits faster (in terms of games) than Sanchez was that DiMaggio dude again.

The Mariners soon learned their lesson — DO NOT PITCH TO THE KRAKEN — and intentionally walked him in each of his final two plate appearances.

The last Yankee to receive multiple intentional walks in a game within his first 21 career games was Joe Gordon in 1938. Sanchez is also youngest Yankee with at least two intentional walks and two hits in a game since a 23-year-old Yogi Berra on July 22, 1947.

And lastly, just for fun, Sanchez is the first Yankee catcher to be intentionally walked twice in a game since John Flaherty on June 15, 2004. Yes, Flash was batting eighth in an Interleague game in Arizona. The manager was not drunk.

Yankeemetrics: And the kids shall lead them [Aug. 19-21]

(AP)
(AP)

Torre-yes?!
The rookies continued to shine, while the underrated ace delivered yet another gem, and the Yankees opened their final West Coast trip of the season with a strong 7-0 win over the Angels on Friday night.

Gary Sanchez’s record-breaking feats have become commonplace since his call-up a few weeks ago, and Friday night’s superb 3-for-4, two-double performance was no exception. Through Friday, 10 of Sanchez’s 21 hits as a major-leaguer had been for extra-bases, putting him in elite company at this point in his career.

The last Yankee to compile 10 or more extra-base hits within his first 16 MLB games was a fella by the name of Joe DiMaggio, who went 30-for-73 (.411) and had 10 doubles, a triple and two homers in the first 16 games he played as a rookie in 1936.

Sanchez had an unlikely Baby Bomber co-star, with the diminutive Ronald Torreyes contributing a 4-for-4 night. He had a double and a homer in his first two at-bats, matching the number of extra-base hits he had in his previous 72 at-bats, dating back to the third game of the season he played on April 13.

It was also a most unlikely performance from a guy hitting at the bottom of the order. The only other non-pitcher in franchise history to have at least four hits, three runs scored and two RBI in a game from the No. 9 spot was Juan Rivera on Sept. 27, 2003 against the Orioles.

Masahiro Tanaka dominated the Angels lineup, surrendering just five singles over 7 ? scoreless innings while striking out nine with no walks. It was his third straight game with at least eight strikeouts and no walks, the first Yankee pitcher since at least 1913 to put together a streak like that.

His effective mix of low-90s fastballs, nasty sliders and darting splitters was key in helping the Yankees stop their mini-two-game slide heading into this series. Tanaka is now 6-1 with a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts following a Yankee loss, and the Yankees are 9-2 in those games.

Through Friday’s slate, 167 major-league pitchers had made at least five starts after a team loss this season. Tanaka’s 1.85 ERA ranks first among that group.

(AP)
(AP)

Cessa makes strong first impression
The Angels — and Angel Stadium — had become somewhat of a kryptonite for the Yankees over the past decade. From 2005-15, the Angels were the only AL team that the Yankees had a losing record against (45-49) , and their 16-30 record in Anaheim was easily their worst at any AL ballpark in that span.

The script has been flipped in 2016, though, as the Yankee improved to 6-0 against the Angels in 2016 following Saturday’s 5-1 win. With only one game remaining in the season series, they clinched their best single-season winning percentage in franchise history against the Angels. The previous high-water mark was a 10-2 (.833) record in 1980.

The youngsters led the way again with Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez combining to drive in three of the five runs and Luis Cessa pitching brilliantly in his first major-league start.

Sanchez opened the scoring with a two-out solo homer in the first inning, his sixth time going deep in the majors. The only other Yankee to hit six homers within his first 17 career games was Shelley Duncan (2007).

Judge’s two-RBI single in the sixth inning gave the Yankees a nice 5-0 cushion, continuing his success in key situations so far in his brief big-league career. It’s a very small sample size, but so far Judge hasn’t been fazed by the pressure: he’s 5-for-13 (.385) with men on base, 3-for-6 (.500) with runners in scoring position, and 6-for-12 (.500) in medium/high-leverage at-bats.

Cessa became the latest Yankee newcomer to take a turn as the star performer, tossing six-plus scoreless innings with three hits allowed and five strikeouts. He is just the second Yankee in the last two decades to pitch at least six scoreless innings and win in his first career start, joining Jose Contreras in 2003.

The elusive third win
After outscoring the Angels 12-1 in dominating the first two games of this series, the Yankee bats went limp in the finale on Sunday afternoon, getting blanked 2-0. Amazingly, the Yankees have yet to sweep a three-game set this season (although they do own a pair of four-game sweeps).

ellsbury catch
(AP)

The loss snapped a seven-game win streak over the Angels dating back to last season, which was tied for their longest win streak in the history of this series (they also won seven in a row spanning the 1980-81 seasons).

The Yankees wasted a strong performance by rookie Chad Green, who took the loss despite throwing six innings of one-run ball. He is the only Yankee starter ever to lose a game against the Angels while allowing no more than one run and five baserunners. In fact, no Yankee had done that against any team in nearly two years (Michael Pineda on Sept. 5, 2014 vs. Royals).

The Yankees miserable trend of failing to hit in the clutch continued as they went 1-for-7 with men in scoring position. They are now batting .228 with RISP this season, which would be their worst mark since 1969 (.224).

Yankeemetrics: Surprising news, big wins [Aug. 5-7]

(AP)
(AP)

Tribute to Teix
The first stunning news conference of the weekend came just a couple hours before the opening game of this Yankees-Indians series, when Mark Teixeira announced that he will retire at the end of the 2016 season.

One of the defining numbers of Teixeira’s legacy is his unprecedented combination of power and defense, at a position where most players either excel in one of those two tools, but rarely both. Teixeira is the only first baseman with at least five Gold Gloves (awarded since 1957) and at least 400 homers.

Teixeira was also unique in that he produced at a high level right out the gate as a rookie, and showed impressive consistency during the prime years of his career. He reached the 25-homer mark in each of his first nine career seasons (2003-11), one of four players in major-league history to do that: Darryl Strawberry, Albert Pujols and Eddie Mathews are the others.

The next season he hit 38 homers and drove in 112 runs, kicking off an incredible eight-year run of 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBI. Among players that played at least 50 percent of their games at first base during the season, the only other guys to match that streak are Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx.

Teixeira was in the Bronx for less than a decade, but he still has a place alongside the all-time great first basemen to wear the pinstripes. He is one of three Yankee first baseman to compile at least 200 homers and 800 hits with the franchise. You might have heard of the others: Don Mattingly and Lou Gehrig.

Just hours after Teixeira’s emotional announcement, the Yankees took the field and produced one of their finest offensive performances of the season in routing the AL Central-leading Indians, 13-7.

Starlin Castro delivered the biggest blow of the game with his first career grand slam in the third inning. Thanks to that blast, Castro upped his batting average with the bases loaded this season to .429 (6-for-14 plus a sac fly), the second-highest in the majors among players with at least 15 plate appearances through Friday.

(Getty)
(Getty)

The letdown
The Yankees rollercoaster-like offense continued its up-and-down path, while another so-so performance from their starting pitcher doomed them in a 5-2 loss to the Indians on Saturday afternoon

Since the calendar flipped to August (and through Saturday), the Yankees game-by-game run totals have been as follows: 6, 1, 9, 1, 13, 2. For the season, that’s 44 games with two or fewer runs scored, by far the most among AL teams (no one else in the league even has 40 such games).

CC Sabathia retired the first 10 batters faced, but once again was victimized by the longball, giving up solo shots to Jason Kipnis in the fourth and Mike Napoli in the sixth inning. This was the third straight start that Sabathia has given up multiple homers, the first time in his career he’s done that.

After a shaky second inning during which he coughed up two runs, Corey Kluber dominated the Yankee lineup the rest of the way, facing the minimum number of batters over his final six innings while striking out eight batters. It was his third straight win over the Yankees, and in each of those games he’s given up no more than two runs and gotten at least eight strikeouts.

Only four other players in major-league history have fashioned such a streak — three straight games pitched with a win, eight-plus strikeouts and two or fewer runs allowed — versus the Yankees: Felix Hernandez (2010), Pedro Martinez (1999-00), Bob Feller (1946) and Lefty Grove (1926).

(Reuters)
(Reuters)

An A-bomb from A-Rod
For the second time in three days a shocking off-field news item grabbed the headlines in Yankeeland. Just hours before Sunday’s series finale, Alex Rodriguez and the team announced that the 41-year-old would play his final game on August 12 and then join the front office in a special advisor/instructor role.

A-Rod might be one of the most complicated and polarizing figures in baseball, but it’s hard to ignore his staggering (though tainted) statistical pedigree. He’s compiled numerous historic feats during his 22-season career, but most notably, he arguably possessed the best power/speed/run-producing combo tool of any hitter.

His 11 seasons of at least 100 RBI, 30 homers and 15 steals are the most all-time (and four more than anyone else), and he is the only player in major-league history with at least 2,000 RBI, 500 homers and 300 steals in a career.

Most people would agree that A-Rod’s signature moment in pinstripes was his incredible production during the Yankees’ 2009 World Series run. He hit .365/.500/.808 with six homers and 18 RBI, putting together one of the greatest single-postseason hitting lines in franchise history.

Among Yankees with at least 25 at-bats in a postseason, his 1.308 OPS ranks third behind only Mickey Mantle in 1960 (1.345) and Reggie Jackson in 1978 (1.315). Additionally, he is the only Yankee with more than five homers and more than 15 RBI in a single postseason.

There was still a game to be played after A-Rod’s announcement, and the Yankees once again rode the momentum of yet another tearful and emotional press conference, beating the Indians 3-2.

Masahiro Tanaka was masterful on the mound, scattering six hits across six innings while striking out eight and allowing just one run. He is now 5-1 with a 2.07 ERA in 10 starts following a Yankee loss. Among MLB pitchers with at least nine such starts this season, only Jacob deGrom (1.99) has a better ERA than Tanaka.

Tanaka’s final strikeout — the result of winning a 12-pitch battle with Lonnie Chisenhall to end the sixth inning — was also the 400th strikeout of his career. The only other Yankee to reach that milestone this early into his major-league career (67th game) was Al Downing.

Yankeemetrics: Playing for pride [Aug. 1-4]

(Getty)
(Getty)

#TeamFun
With the white flag flying high in the Bronx, the Yankees ushered in a new era of pinstriped baseball on Monday night with a dramatic — and thoroughly fun-to-watch — win in 10 innings over the Mets. This was their first extra-inning win in the Subway Series since May 20, 2006 at Shea Stadium.

It was a back-and-forth battle with the Yankees erasing two deficits before finally edging the Mets with some rare clutch hitting. Trailing by two runs in the eighth inning, Didi Gregorius added another gold star to his stellar season with a two-out, game-tying two-run single.

That timely hit upped his batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs to a whopping .341, the sixth-best mark among all MLB players with at least 40 at-bats in that situation through Monday. It was also the first time in Didi’s career he delivered a two-out, game-tying/go-ahead RBI in the eighth inning or later.

Starlin Castro won the game with a tie-breaking, bases-loaded sacrifice fly to the warning track in the 10th inning. This was the first extra-inning sac fly hit by a player on either team in the history of the Mets-Yankees rivalry.

The Yankees overcame another disappointing effort from CC Sabathia, who allowed five runs before getting pulled in the sixth inning. It was the 33rd time a Yankee starter gave up at least five runs in a game this season; through Monday’s slate, no other team in baseball had more such starts by their pitchers than your 2016 Yankees.

(Getty)
(Getty)

The new reality
One day after one of the most inspiring and exciting games of the season, the Yankees responded with one of their all-too-familiar lackluster and boring performances on Tuesday night, losing in a rout, 7-1.

On paper, Masahiro Tanaka seemed poised to have a strong outing against the Mets. Not only had he already thrown a shutout at Citi Field in 2014, but he also was the owner of a 1.88 ERA in nine Interleague starts, the third-best ERA among active pitchers (min. 60 IP).

Instead, things went horribly wrong as Tanaka produced a dud, allowing a career-high seven earned runs. Entering this game, he was the only MLB pitcher in the 20-season history of Interleague play to throw a quality start in each of his first nine career Interleague appearances.

For the Mets, Jacob deGrom dominated the Yankees both on the mound and at the plate, tossing seven scoreless innings while going 2-for-3 with two runs scored. (Yes, the 28-year-old right-hander crossed home plate more times than the entire Yankee team.)

deGrom is the first pitcher with multiple hits and multiple runs in a game vs. the Yankees since Ken Brett (brother of George) on Oct. 2, 1972. The pitching Brett was actually a prolific hitter, who once homered in four straight games and finished with a .698 career OPS. That’s the second-best mark among pitchers who began their career after WWII (min. 300 PA), behind only Don Newcombe (.705).

Mark Teixeira reached a nice round-number milestone with his 400th double in the sixth inning. He is the only switch-hitter in major-league history to hit at least 400 doubles and 400 home runs within the first 14 seasons of his career.

New kids on the block
Wednesday’s contest quickly devolved into an unlikely slugfest and resulted in one of the wildest — if not bizarre — games of the season. The good news is that the ending was a happy one for the Yankees, who won 9-5 to move back above the .500 mark again.

Chad Green allowed the first five batters to reach base, including a leadoff homer by Curtis Granderson; he’s now given up eight homers in 18 innings as a starter and zero homers in 9 1/3 innings as a reliever.

(Getty)
(Getty)

It was also the sixth leadoff homer surrendered by Yankee pitchers this season, the third-most by a Yankee staff in the last 75 years. The only seasons with more were in 2001 (7) and 2014 (9).

The Yankees eventually rallied with Mark Teixeira delivering the decisive blow in the second inning with a tie-breaking three-run homer off the lefty Matz. It was Teixeira’s first homer from the right side of the plate since July 31 of last year.

In between those longballs — from August 1, 2015 through August 2, 2016 — Teixeira slugged .248 as a righty, the sixth-lowest slugging percentage among the 274 players with at least 100 plate appearances as a right-handed batter in that span.

Luis Severino was brilliant in relief of the struggling Green, taking over in the fourth and finishing his outing with just one unearned run allowed on one hit in 4 1/3 dominant innings. After the game, Joe Girardi praised Severino, noting that “his slider [was] better” and “his fastball command was better … Tonight was the best I’ve seen him.”

Severino’s postgame Pitch F/X numbers echo Girardi’s comments: his darting, mid-90s fastball got strikes nearly 70 percent of the time, and his wipeout slider got whiffs on half of the 10 cuts that the Mets took against it. That was his highest slider swing-and-miss rate in any game where he’s thrown at least 15 sliders.

One is not enough
A 4-1 loss on Thursday night gave the Yankees a split in this four-game series against the Mets, an outcome that is very fitting for this Yankees team that has mastered the art of being .500 this season. They’re now 54-54 overall, which includes 44-44 before the break, 10-10 since the break, 13-13 in July and 2-2 in August.

This was the 25th time this season that the Yankees have scored one run or fewer, the most such games among all major-league teams entering the weekend slate.

Nathan Eovaldi‘s dinger problem reared its ugly head again on Thursday night, allowing his 22nd and 23rd homers of the season in the fifth inning. His rate of 1.67 homers per nine innings this year would be the worst in franchise history for any Yankee pitcher that qualified for the ERA title in a non-strike season. It was also his eighth game in 2016 giving up two or more homers, the most among all major-league pitchers.

Bartolo Colon enjoyed his return to the Bronx as he silenced the Yankee bats, surrendering just one run on five hits in 6 2/3 innings. The 43-year-old righty is the oldest pitcher ever to beat the Yankees at Yankee Stadium while pitching at least six innings and allowing no more than one run.

Yankeemetrics: Raise or lower the white flag? [July 25-27]

Be Like Mike. (Photo: Getty)
Be Like Mike. (Photo: Getty)

No Chapman, no problem
Despite making their first significant “sell” trade-deadline move in more than two and a half decades, the Yankees continued to remain on the fringes of the playoff race with a 2-1 win over the Astros on Monday.

With the win, the Yankees moved to three games above .500 for the first time this season. This is the deepest into the season they’ve gone without reaching that mark since 1991, when they never got more than a game above .500 the entire season. They finished that forgettable campaign with a 71-91 record, their fifth-worth winning percentage in franchise history.

A victory did not look promising less than a minute after Michael Pineda took the mound in the bottom of the first inning; George Springer deposited the first pitch into the right-field seats for a quick 1-0 Astros lead.

It was the first time a Yankee allowed a first-pitch homer to the first batter of the game since the Jose Reyes took Hiroki Kuroda deep in Toronto on June 25, 2014, and just the 11th occurrence since pitch data became available in 1988. Of the 10 other instances, the only other Yankee pitcher who allowed no other runs besides that leadoff homer — like Pineda — was Jack McDowell on July 13, 1995 versus the Twins.

Austin Romine played the unlikely role of hero with a tie-breaking RBI double in the eighth inning. That was the first career go-ahead hit in the eighth inning or later for the backup catcher, who is hitting a robust .375 (12-for-32) with runners in scoring position this season, the best mark on the team through Monday.

Milestone alerts! Carlos Beltran’s double leading off the seventh inning was the 524th of his career, passing one Hall-of-Famer (Willie Mays) and moving into a tie for 44th place with another Hall-of-Famer (Ken Griffey Jr.). Up next is Ted Williams with 525 doubles.

Chase Headley’s game-tying single in the fifth inning was his 1,147th career hit, breaking the major-league record for most hits by a Colorado-born player. He surpassed Roy Hartzell, a Golden, CO native who played 11 seasons with the St. Louis Browns (1906-10) and the Yankees (1911-16). According to a 1914 New York Times article, Hartzell was the “handiest utility man the Yankees ever had…he has played every position on the club except battery positions.”

That was easy. (Photo: AP)
That was easy. (Photo: AP)

All aboard the win train
The Yankees sure are making it tough for Prince Hal to push the SELL! button. For a team that’s defined inconsistency, they’ve somehow caught an incredible wave of positive momentum at the most critical juncture of the season, beating the Astros again on Tuesday night. It was another comeback win fueled by dominant starting pitching, some timely hitting and a shutdown back-of-the-bullpen performance.

CC Sabathia posted his best start in more than a month, giving up two runs on four hits while pitching into the seventh inning. He snapped a six-game winless streak during which he allowed at least four runs in each outing. That matched the longest such streak of his career, which he also did in 2002.

Although Sabathia had posted an ugly 7.46 ERA in his previous six turns, it wasn’t like he was getting crushed every night. He still entered Tuesday’s game with the lowest average exit velocity allowed (85.8 mph) among pitchers with at least 200 batted balls in play, and then nearly matched that number against the Astros (86.8).

Dellin Betances pulled off another crazy Houdini act, getting out of a two-out bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning to help seal the win. Hitters are just 2-for-27 (.074) with ducks on the pond against Betances in his career, the second-lowest batting average allowed in that situation among active pitchers (min. 25 at-bats), behind only Pirates lefty Tony Watson (.069).

Aces down
The Yankees desperate playoff push hit a speed bump on Wednesday night as the Yankees squandered a golden opportunity to move within three games of the second Wild Card spot after losing to the Astros, 4-1.

Still, even with the disappointing defeat, the Yankees are 11-5 (.688) all-time at Minute Maid Park, their third-highest winning percentage at any ballpark, behind only Atlanta’s Turner Field (.857, 12-2) and Minnesota’s Target Field (.760, 19-6).

Rotation ace Masahiro Tanaka — who entered the game with a league-leading 1.50 ERA in nine road starts — allowed four runs in five innings and lost for just the third time in 21 starts this season.

The loss also snapped a streak of seven straight Yankee wins in games started by Tanaka, the team’s longest such streak since winning 12 games in a row with Ivan Nova (!) on the mound in 2011. Tanaka has now been tagged for 10 runs and 14 hits in 10 career innings at Minute Maid Park.

Prior to Tanaka’s sub-par performance, Yankee pitchers had allowed just 17 runs in their previous 10 games, their best 10-game stretch of run prevention since July 1998.

Brian McCann drove in the lone Yankee run in the fourth inning with his 15th home run. This is the 11th time in his career he’s hit than many homers in a season, a feat matched by only seven other catchers in MLB history: Carlton Fisk, Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, Lance Parrish, Yogi Berra, Jorge Posada and Gary Carter.

Yankeemetrics: The buy-or-sell rollercoaster [July 22-24]

(Getty)
(Getty)

Giant victory
Facing yet another first-place team on this make-or-break homestand, the Yankees pulled off a stunning victory over the Giants on Friday night. The Yankees entered this series with a 3-7 record in Interleague play this season, the worst in the American League and second-worst in the majors ahead of only the Reds (4-11).

Masahiro Tanaka outdueled Madison Bumgarner in a battle of aces, firing six shutout innings against the Giants. Tanaka has dominated NL competition during his major-league career, compiling a 1.88 ERA with 59 strikeouts and just six walks in nine Interleague starts. That’s the third-best Interleague ERA among active pitchers with at least seven starts, and the best for any Yankee pitcher that has ever made more than one start during Interleague play.

Tanaka has put together an ace-like resume this year, but one narrative clouding his season performance has been his sub-par numbers on normal rest.

He entered this game with a 5.33 ERA in eight starts on four days rest, a bloated figure compared to his 3.15 season ERA. The 2.18 difference in ERA between his 5.33 normal rest ERA and 3.15 overall ERA ranked fourth-highest among the 143 pitchers with at least five starts on four days rest this season.

Aroldis Chapman’s flame-throwing feats are becoming more and more ridiculous every day. On Friday night, 15 of his 17 pitches were fastballs, and each of the heaters was clocked at 100 mph or faster, with a whopping seven pitches topping out at 104 mph.

That’s now 11 pitches of at least 104 mph in his last two appearances combined (he had four on July 18), an unprecedented total considering that only three pitches of 104 or more mph had ever been recorded in the nine seasons of Statcast data (since 2008) before this week.

Chapman averaged a ridiculous 103.2 mph on his fastball against the Giants, the highest average fastball velocity in a game by any pitcher since 2008, per Statcast.

Bronx bummer
Less than 24 hours after celebrating one of their most uplifting wins of the season, the Yankees crashed back down to Earth with one of their most frustrating and crushing losses, falling 2-1 in 12 innings to the Giants on Saturday.

nova fist pump
(Getty)

Not only did they lose after playing a dozen innings in the brutal heat, but they also failed numerous times in the clutch (went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position) and wasted a gem from their fifth starter (seven innings and one run allowed by Ivan Nova).

And to pile on the depressing facts, they whiffed on a chance to reach three games over .500 for the first time this season, and — because the Blue Jays lost earlier in the day — could have pulled to within three games in the loss column of the second wild card spot if they had somehow won the game.

Instead, the Yankees’ momentum was halted and they suffered yet another disheartening defeat in a season filled with far too many of them already.

It was just the third time the Yankees have lost an Interleague game at home that lasted at least 12 innings. The others were a 6-2 loss on April 18, 2013 to the Diamondbacks and a 2-1 loss on June 12, 2001 against the Expos (both games went 12 innings, too).

This isn’t the first time Nova has been stellar against the Giants; he threw a six-hit shutout in San Francisco on Sept. 12, 2013 in his only other appearance against them. He now owns a shiny 0.56 career ERA against the Giants, the lowest mark among active pitchers that have made more than one start versus the franchise (LOL, small sample sizes).

(AP)
(AP)

Yankees Last (home)Stand
The Yankees seemingly staved off an imminent fire sale for yet another day by capping off this make-or-break homestand with a solid series win against the first-place Giants.

They climbed back up to two games above .500, tying their high-water mark of the season. It marked the 33rd time the Yankees finished a game with a record within two games of the magical .500 mark, the second-longest streak of that kind in franchise history, per the Elias Sports Bureau. The only longer one was a 42-game streak in 2008.

Carlos Beltran opened the scoring in the first inning with his 413th career home run, passing Alfonso Soriano for sole possession of 52nd place on the all-time list. Up next is Darrell Evans with 414.

Mark Teixeira added a solo shot of his own in the next frame, his 200th homer in pinstripes. He is just the fourth Yankee switch-hitter to reach that milestone, and also the fourth first baseman in franchise history with at least 200 homers. His fellow Yankee switch-hitters in the 200-homer club are Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Mickey Mantle; the other first baseman are Jason Giambi, Don Mattingly and Lou Gehrig.

Nathan Eovaldi‘s erratic season has mirrored the Yankees’ inconsistency, so it was little surprise that he delivered a standout performance (two runs allowed in 6 2/3 innings) on the same day the Yankees actually looked like a contender. What is surprising is that one of his best outings came against the Giants, a team that he’s historically struggled against.

Eovaldi entered the game with a 13.30 ERA in five starts versus San Francisco, the second-highest ERA by any active MLB pitcher against a single opponent (min. five starts). The highest mark is by Dana Eveland, who boasts a 16.11 ERA in 10 games (five starts) against the Red Sox.

Masahiro Tanaka: The Unspoken Trade Candidate

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Even after back-to-back wins, the Yankees are five games back of a postseason spot with 13 days to go before the trade deadline. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at 6.4% as of this writing. We’ve spent the last few weeks preparing for the deadline by discussing scenarios in which the Yankees sell. Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Brett Gardner, whoever. We haven’t even bothered to consider buying scenarios.

One player we haven’t discussed as a trade candidate is Masahiro Tanaka, the staff ace and the Yankees’ best starter. Teams usually don’t trade their best pitcher, even when they’re selling. It’s a big deal when one of these guys is traded. Tanaka has been excellent overall this season, throwing 123 innings of 3.15 ERA (3.30 FIP) ball, so it stands to reason he could fetch quite a bit in a trade.

Brian Cashman and his staff surely are not ruling anything out. They’d be silly not to listen to offers for Tanaka or any other player on the roster. Does it actually make sense to trade him though? I think you can make the argument either way. In fact, let’s do that right now.

The Case for Trading Tanaka

The case for trading Tanaka boils down to this: he can bring back good young players and boy oh boy do the Yankees need some of those. It’s not quite that simple though. It never is. Here are the two main reasons to deal Tanaka.

1. He can fetch a lot of young talent. Tanaka is a top 25-ish pitcher in baseball and those guys are really, really valuable. Every team wants them too. There’s not a rotation in baseball that wouldn’t get better by adding Tanaka, so the Yankees would have no shortage of suitors. Every contender will be in the mix. Rangers, Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, you name it.

Look at the Jeff Samardzija trade. He was having an excellent season with the Cubs in 2014 (2.83 ERA and 3.09 FIP) and brought back a package led by Addison Russell despite his lack of track record. There were other players involved, but the Cubs were getting a big package for Samardzija no matter what. He was a year and a half away from free agency like Tanaka is now. That’s not a crazy trade benchmark for Tanaka.

Other pitchers traded a year and a half away from free agency include David Price (Rays to Tigers) and Dan Haren (Diamondbacks to Angels). Tanaka is not Price, but you can compare him favorably to Samardzija and Haren, and those two were traded for some nice talent. If the Yankees put him out there, Tanaka would instantly become the best available starter, and that usually means a big return.

2. His elbow is on borrowed time. Two years ago Tanaka missed the second half with a partially torn ligament in his elbow, and let’s be real, most expected him to require Tommy John surgery by now. Instead, the elbow has held up the last two years and Tanaka has been very good. The rehab process couldn’t have worked any better.

Now, that said, it’s only a matter of time until the ligament gives. Adam Wainwright pitched five years with a partial tear before it gave out, if you want one example. The Yankees don’t want to be left holding the bag when Tanaka’s elbow gives out. They’ve gotten three really good years out of him and have a chance to avoid not only his decline years, but the seemingly inevitable Tommy John surgery.

The Case Against Trading Tanaka

Getting a lot of talent and avoiding a serious elbow injury are two pretty great reasons to trade Tanaka. Keeping him? That’s a different story. It’s always easy to come up with reasons to dump a guy. Finding reasons to keep him can be a bit tougher. Here are three.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

1. The opt-out clause really hurts his value. Once upon a time opt-out clauses only went to elite players. Nowadays everyday gets one, including guys like Ian Kennedy and Scott Kazmir. Tanaka can opt out of his deal after next season, and as long as he’s healthy, he will. He’d be walking away from $67M and that’s nothing. Samardzija got $90M this winter after leading the league in hits, runs, and homers allowed.

The opt-out is almost all downside. If the elbow gives out, Tanaka will stick around and collect his $67M. If he’s healthy and productive, he’ll bolt. How do you market that in trade talks? “Here’s a guy you’ll have for a year and a half if he’s really good, or four and a half years if he’s hurt or really bad.” Not a great sales pitch. That downside created by the opt-out is going to be reflected in what teams are willing to give up to get him.

2. Can he really fetch a lot of talent? Is Tanaka’s trade value as high as we’d like to think it is? Between the looming elbow injury and the opt-out, there’s a lot of off-the-field stuff dragging down Tanaka’s value. He’s a really good pitcher! But he carries more injury risk than most and the opt-out is not team friendly. Yeah, you can get a draft pick if he opts out, but that mitigates the risk only so much. Tanaka’s a great pitcher with just enough negatives that chip away at his trade value. Add all those chips up, and before you know it the offers aren’t nearly as good as hoped. I’m not sure I’d call it selling low, but the return might not accurately reflect his value on the field.

3. Guys like Tanaka are hard to get, you know. The Yankees no doubt have plans to contend next season, and Tanaka can help them do that. He’s a top 25-ish pitcher in baseball and those guys don’t become available every often. The Yankees could trade Tanaka and get some young talent and that would be great, but that would leave them with one of the worst starting staffs in baseball with a dreadful free agent class on the horizon. Keeping Tanaka because they would be unable to replace him is not crazy, not if the goal is to win next year.

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Every player is available at the right price, and I imagine the Yankees would set the price fairly high for Tanaka. They could market him as an ace caliber starter who can help you for two postseason runs, not one. And because he has that extra year of control and isn’t a rental, they don’t have to move him. Same with Andrew Miller. Keeping him is a viable strategy.

I don’t expect the Yankees to trade Tanaka because I don’t think anyone will meet their asking price, even with no other high-end starters available. He’s a guy you get because you want to win the World Series, not sneak into the postseason. Know what I mean? Only serious offers will be considered and I think the elbow and opt-out will prevent Tanaka from bringing back a massive return.