On Saturday afternoon in the Bronx, New York, New York Yankees’ ace Masahiro Tanaka took the ball against the Tampa Bay Rays.
7 1/3 innings later, he gave it up after allowing juts one run on five hits with a season-high 10 strikeouts in the Yankees’ 5-1 win.
The 27-year-old struck out two batters in each of the first four innings and had sharp stuff all day long.
Tanaka improved to 13-4 with a 3.04 ERA on the season. Even more impressively, the Yankees are 22-7 in games Tanaka has started this season.
With their seventh consecutive win on Saturday, the Yankees moved into a tie with the Baltimore Orioles for the second AL Wild Card spot and Tanaka has been a big reason why.
Since the All-Star Break, Tanaka is 6-2 with a 2.89 ERA and the Yankees have won his last seven starts — six of them six innings or more.
Tanaka has returned to being the ace the Yankees brought him to New York to be.
“He has really stepped it up and performed at a really high level,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You feel good when he takes the mound.”
Tanaka has re-invented himself with a strong spliter, two-seam fastball, curveball and occasional four-seem heater.
“You just keep grinding and grinding mentally and you’re thinking to yourself, Just try to keep the ball down, and I guess that’s how I was talking to myself throughout the game,” Tanaka said earlier this week.
As far as Cy Young Award consideration, Tanaka deserves and belongs in the conversation. Currently, he ranks fourth in all of baseball with a 4.7 WAR, trailing Noah Syndergaard, Jose Fernandez and Max Scherzer, all National League arms.
At 4.7, Tanaka is tied with Cleveland Indians’ ace Corey Kluber and Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale.
Although both having good years, Tanaka has helped a depleted Yankees team sore back into the playoff race.
“Any time you have an ERA around three in the American League East I think you’ve pitched really well,”Girardi said. “He’s given us the chance to win a lot of games.”
Tanaka’s 3.04 ERA sits at third among AL pitchers behind just Detroit’s Michael Fulmer (2.76) and Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez (2.92).
Of course, the award has plenty of candidates including Rick Porcello, who won his 20 game on Friday night.
With Porcello, reigning winner Corey Kluber, J.A. Happ and even closer Zack Britton all in the mix, there is no clear cut winner this season.
With the way Tanaka has performed, and the way the Yankees have surged back in the playoff race, the ace of the Bombers certainly deserves to be in the discussion.