The Yankees face the Rays in a very important rubber match tonight. The Yankees will be sending 21-year-old Luis Severino to the mound to start the game, fresh off his first real bad MLB outing against the Blue Jays over the weekend and with a potential quasi-calf issue. The Rays will be sending their ace and noted Yankee dominator Chris Archer to the mound. Advantage Rays. While the Yanks won't have that ace advantage tonight, they will have it when Masahiro Tanaka toes the rubber next, most likely on Friday against the Mets. This would line him up to make a start against the Blue Jays in next week's crucial final series, and it would require him to make both starts on regular rest. That's something the Yankees have gone out of their way to avoid as much as possible this season, but as Mike Axisa clearly and correctly explained this morning at RAB, the time for that arm protection is over. Now it's about winning games and Tanaka needs to be pitching on regular rest going forward to support that number one goal.
When you think about it, this is exactly the situation the Yankees brought Tanaka in for. This is why they paid him as much as they did to sign him. Tanaka was brought here to be an ace, to be the big game pitcher that Joe can hand the ball to and say "go win one for us tonight", and after last season's injury and team mediocrity problems, he's going to get his chance to be that this year.
If recent results are any indication, Tanaka seems like he's already up to the challenge. He's allowed 1 earned run on 10 hits in 15.0 innings pitched over his last 2 starts with a 17/1 K/BB ratio. These last 2 starts have arguably been his 2 best of the season to date, top 3 at the absolute worst. Tanaka appears to be peaking at the right time, and if that's the case then the Yankees will be in good shape over these last few weeks.
The Yankees have already gotten some surprising results from their biggest money players this season. Teix and A-Rod have surprisingly lived up to their big salaries while CC and Ellsbury have not, CC's results much more predictable than Ellsbury's. Tanaka hasn't been asked to shoulder too much of the load, but that time is coming with his next start. This is what he was brought here to do, win big games. It took until September 2015 to make it happen, but it's finally Tanaka Time and I'm excited to see how he performs.