The Yankees needed to win yesterday's game to avoid falling 5 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the division race and to avoid an embarrassingly awful four-game sweep at home. Luckily they had Masahiro Tanaka on the mound, and while he didn't last as long as he did in his last start against Toronto , he was just as great. Tanaka kept most of the power hitters off balance, and helped shut out the Blue Jays lineup for the first time since the All-Star Break.
In his last two starts against Toronto (16 innings pitched), Tanaka is 2-0. He has walked three batters, struck out 15, has held the potent Blue Jays lineup to a paltry .164 BA and he has not allowed a home run. That last one is important because that team likes the long ball and hits it often.
So how do you shut down a team with such a potent offense? You don't allow them to feast on fastballs. You pitch to your strength which is your splitter and Tanaka's splitter was on yesterday.
Here's the breakdown of all of his pitches courtesy of Brooks Baseball (as of late last night):
- 12 four seamers: 93.3 mph (95.3 max), 9 strikes, 5 swings, 4 of them were a first pitches
- 11 sinkers: 91.6 mph (93.2 max), 7 strikes, 4 swings, 2 of them were first pitches
- 19 sliders: 83.6 mph (87.5 max), 11 strikes, 9 swings, 6 of them were first pitches
- 11 curveballs: 78.2 mph (81.7 max), 7 strikes, 4 swings, 4 of them were first pitches
- 11 cutters: 88.6 mpg (90.1 max), 9 strikes, 7 swings, 1 was a first pitch
- 44 splitters: 88.1 mph (90.2 max), 33 strikes, 26 swings, 7 were first pitches
Here's the results breakdown (hits, foul balls, balls in play, etc.) courtesy of Baseball Savant:
Tanaka gave up four hits. Three of them were doubles that obviously didn't amount to anything because Toronto never scored. And all three doubles were hit by righty batters. He also gave up a single to lefty Josh Thole on an 89 mph splitter. That was the only splitter that didn't quite work for Tanaka yesterday.
Here's how that pitch looked most of the day:
Here's the splitter that didn't quite work:
According to Brooks Baseball (again as of late last night when this post was written), Tanaka threw the splitter 19 times to lefty batters - 15 of them were strikes (10 were strikes not in play) and he generated 13 swings. Five balls were in play and one, the Thole single, fell for a hit. He threw the splitter 28 times to righty batters - 20 of them were strikes (18 were strikes not in play) and he generated 13 swings.
Here's how Toronto's four hits looked in heat map form. The 1-1 at the low end of the zone is Thole's single and the 1-2 just below the 2-2 in red is Bautista's double:
It was another ace-like performance from the staff ace when the team needed it.
Tanaka mentioned to Meredith Marakovits in his postgame interview on YES that he felt he had the right mindset going into the game. He told her that he said to himself that he wasn't going to let Toronto sweep the Yankees. Maybe Tanaka should talk to the other members of the starting rotation and even some guys in the bullpen and help them with their confidence against Toronto.
In case you wanted to relive some of his highlights from yesterday's start, here's a link.
[Heat maps courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info. Pie chart and spray chart courtesy of Baseball Savant. Other numbers courtesy of Brooks Baseball]