Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda dominate the Cubs in doubleheader


Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees came into the season with high hopes that Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda would be top-tier starters at the back-end of their rotation. Each pitcher has made three starts so far this season, and all six have been worth talking about.

The dynamic duo was on display Wednesday in the Bronx when the Yankees and Chicago Cubs took part in a day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium after Tuesday’s game was rained out.

Tanaka took the mound for the Yankees in the first game, and Pineda get the call in the nightcap.

The two pitchers combined for 14 shutout innings, permitting just six hits, while walking two and striking out 13.

First Tanaka, who was once agains impressive. The Japanese right-hander struck out 10 for the second straight outing, which ties his career-high from his last start against the Baltimore Orioles.

According to (a great site that breaks down pitchers’ outings), Tanaka used six different pitches in the game. He was keeping the Cubs’ hitters off balance all afternoon with a good combination of splitters, sinkers and fastball.

More impressively, from the numbers given, which could be updated over night, is that Tanaka threw 27 splitters in the game. He induced 17 swings on the pitch, and 12 of those swings went without contact. A clear sign that the pitch is pretty hard for hitters to pick up.

He now has 28 strikeouts and just two walks through three starts this season. His 27th strikeout, which came in the 7th inning, set a Yankees franchise record for most strikeouts through the first three starts of a pitcher’s season, passing Al Leiter for first place on the list.

The first hit he gave up was a bunt single by Junior Lake in the 2nd inning. Lake was originally called out at first base, but after Cubs manager Rick Renteria challenged the call, the replay showed Lake was actually safe, so the call was over-turned for an infield single. The second hit was another bunt single; with the infield shifted over, first baseman Anthony Rizzo dropped down a bunt to third base, with nobody there.

As you probably guessed, Tanaka was able to work around those two singles, and the one walk he issued in the 1st inning, without giving up any runs. He lowered his ERA to 2.05 for the season, and I now 2-0 as a Yankee.

Obviously three games is a pretty small sample size when talking about how great this kid is going to be, but the stuff he’s shown off in his first three starts really does suggest that he’s going to be very good in this league for quite some time, and that’s all the Yankees can ask for after investing $175 million in him.

As for Pineda, he pitched very well in his last outing, against the Boston Red Sox last Thursday, but it was overshadowed by the apparent pine tar seen on his hand by TV  cameras during the game.

That was not the case Wednesday night, as Pineda held the Cubs to just four hits over six shutout innings, while walking one and striking out three.

Three of the four hits that Pineda gave up in the game were singles, and the fourth was a Rizzo triple in the 6th inning.

Pineda hardly got himself into any jams on the mound. The only one worth mentioning was in the 5th inning, when Starlin Castro and Luis Valbuena singled to open the inning, putting runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out. Wellington Castillo bunted the runners over to 90 feet. Pineda then came back to strike out Ryan Kalish on a filthy slider, and got Darwin Barney to fly out to end the inning.

After three starts this season, Pineda has an ERA of just 1.00 in 18 innings, with 15 strikeouts and just three walks.

A lot like Tanaka, it’s tough to tell what Pineda is going to be able to bring to the table for the rest of the season, considering he’s been away from the game for over two years because of shoulder surgery. He’s pitching in big league games this season for the first time since starting for the Mariners in 2011. A lot of things have changed since then.

The next big test for the talented right-hander be to face the Red Sox at Fenway Park next Wednesday, and that’ll be interesting to watch.