With Nathan Eovaldi out, possibly for the rest of the year, there's added pressure on Masahiro Tanaka to pitch well down the stretch. If last night's start was any indication, I think he'll be just fine with that. Tanaka turned in a gem, arguably his best start of the season last night, but he ended up doing it in a losing cause as the offense no-showed and Baltimore struck late with a go-ahead home run.
It didn't take Tanaka long to settle in. He had his game going from the first pitch and he retired the Orioles in order through the first 4 innings with 5 strikeouts from the 2nd-4th. He did walk the leadoff hitter in the 5th and a questionable official scorer's call a few batters later broke up the no-hitter, but Tanaka struck out 2 more and got out of the inning easily. His fastballs had good movement, he could throw multiple pitches for strike 1, and his offspeed stuff was really sharp. The splitter, the slider, and the curveball drew a ton of swings and misses. This was ace form Tanaka.
The only bad pitch he made came to the leadoff batter in the top of the 6th. Ryan Flaherty worked the count to 3-1 by taking a couple fastballs for strikes, then swung through a cutter for strike 2. With the count full, Tanaka and/or Brian McCann elected to go fastball again and Tanaka threw one in the heart of the strike zone that Flaherty hit for a home run. That was all the scoring Tanaka would allow, as he battled through the next few innings and completed 8 to save a tired bullpen. But I have to think he wants that fastball decision to Flaherty back.
Or maybe just a little help from his offense. They made Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman look good by going down 1-2-3 in the 2nd and 4th innings and wasted situations with multiple runners on base in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th. Matt Wieters even dropped a sure foul pop out in Alex Rodriguez's 2-out at-bat in the 3rd to give him another chance to drive in a run, but A-Rod couldn't come through.
Alex led off the bottom of the 6th against Gausman and this time he made sure he didn't waste the opportunity. He worked the count full like Flaherty did in his big AB, took a fastball for ball 3, then got another one on the 3-2 pitch and had it timed up. A-Rod hit the ball out to deep left field and seemed to think it was a flyout off the bat. But the ball carried just enough to sneak over the fence and the game was tied on A-Rod's 30th home run of the season.
With Millance unavailable, Joe went to Chasen Shreve in the top of the 9th. That move proved to be fatal, as Shreve served up a solo shot to Chris Davis on a 2-0 get-me-over fastball. Davis let it get deep and muscled it over the wall in left. The lineup went down 1-2-3 in the 9th just like they did in the 7th and 8th and the loss was secure. Bad pitch by Shreve, but he shouldn't have been pitching in a 1-1 game there. Offense has to do more and they didn't.
- 2-4 night for A-Rod with the solo bomb. I think I might have envisioned 30 homers this year in my wildest dreams, but definitely not in my normal dreams.
- Rest of the lineup went 4-29 with 7 strikeouts. That's how you lose an 8-inning, 1-run, 10-strikeout start from your ace.
- Speaking of which, how about Tanaka in this one? He was outstanding. 10 strikeouts is a season high and he racked up 22 (!!!!) swinging strikes. More of this, please.
- 0-4 night with 3 Ks at the plate for Greg Bird and a shaky night at first base. Such is rookie life.
- Don't get alarmed, but Carlos Beltran has cooled down a tick in the last week. Now would not be the time for him to go into a slump. Not with Teix out and Gardner ailing.