Masahiro Tanaka goes two scoreless, strikes out three in his U.S. debut

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TAMPA — Masahiro Tanaka made his U.S. debut today, facing the Phillies at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. Tanaka pitched third in the game, with CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda taking the first four innings. Tanaka was not dominant, but he was effective.

In the fifth he gave up a leadoff single to Darin Ruf then retired Cody Asche and Cameron Rup on flies to left. He pitched the count full against Cesar Hernandez before ultimately striking him out. Back out for the sixth he struck out Ben Revere on three swinging strikes, one of which came on Tanaka’s fabled split-finger fastball. He then allowed a Ronny Cedeno single to center, struck out Domonic Brown and then induced Kelly Dugan to fly out to center.

Tanaka wasn’t razor-sharp, but he looked just fine for a guy getting his first work in of the spring. He threw 32 pitches, 22 for strikes. When he needed to dial it up a bit, such as that splitter to Revere and the chest-high fastball that served as strike three to Brown, he was able to easily. Mostly, he looked composed. He was like any other major leaguer at the first of March. He knows it’s a long season and didn’t feel any need to go to 10 when the Yankees only needed him at a 7.

Not bad for a 7.

Check out the highlights from Tanaka’s performance below:

 

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).