Masahiro Tanaka struck out eight Toronto Blue Jays in his major league debut on Saturday. Wednesday night in New York, he topped himself by striking out 10 Baltimore Orioles in his first start at Yankee Stadium.
Not many people showed up to watch Tanaka pitch in the Bronx for the first time on a cold night at the ballpark, and those that bought tickets and didn’t head to the game missed out on a pretty good performance.
Tanaka got himself into trouble in the 2nd inning, giving up a pair of singles to Matt Wieters and Steve Lombardozzi. Then Tanaka left a slider up in the zone to Jonathan Schoop, and he hit it hard, and far. The ball was able to stay fair long enough to count as a three-run homerun to put the Orioles up 3-0.
At that point, it looked like Tanaka Day wouldn’t end the way that many people had hoped, but he turned things around and salvaged the rest of his outing.
Tanaka only gave up three more hits in the next 5.2 inning. He also walked Chris Davis in the 3rd inning. It was his first walk issued of the year, and the first walk by a Yankees starter in the past 21 innings, dating back to last Friday in Toronto.
He threw 101 pitches in seven innings, giving up three runs (all on the home run) on seven hits, while striking out a career-high 10, with the one walk, as I mentioned.
With the 10 strikeouts, Tanaka not only became the first Yankee to ever strike out eight or more in his first two big league starts, but he became the first Yankee to strike out eight or more in back-to-back starts since the great Mike Mussina.
Some things worth noting: Tanaka didn’t have his best command tonight. He only walked the one batter, but he was still misses on pitches, however, his stuff was good enough to get hitters to swing and miss.
His splitter was good, like it always is, though. It would be safe to say that Tanaka still hasn’t fully settled in to the life of a major league pitcher, but you can just see already from his first two starts that he’s going to be very, very good.