Masahiro Tanaka overcomes rough start to win in his major league debut

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Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka enjoyed a successful major league debut last night, allowing three runs (two earned) over seven innings in a 7-3 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre in Toronto.

It didn’t look so good early on. After being given a 2-0 lead, Tanaka got a rude welcome to the majors by giving up a solo home run to Melky Cabrera on his second pitch of the evening. C’mon Yankees fans, you have to admit that’s pretty funny. The high-priced right-hander gave up two more runs in the second inning on a Jonathan Diaz single, but settled down from there to retire 16 out of the final 18 batters he faced while New York’s offense picked him up.

Tanaka gave up six hits without walking a batter and notched eight strikeouts. As expected, he showed excellent control and a varied arsenal, including his much-hyped splitter. Per Brooks Baseball, he threw a total of 24 splitters and got whiffs on 10 out of 17 swings. Not a bad ratio. He worked mostly in the low 90s with his fastball and topped out at just over 95 mph.

All in all, it was a solid debut and Tanaka was mostly as advertised. If you’re a Yankees fan, you have to be encouraged to see that he bounced back after a rough start.

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

Associated Press
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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.