Will Masahiro Tanaka ever lose?

May, 15, 2014
May 15
12:35
AM ET
NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka is a quarter of the way through another 24-0 season. He has not ruled out a major league repeat of his incredible final year in Japan. At this point, who can doubt him?

Tanaka did it all in his first major league shutout, a 4-0 win over the New York Mets. He stopped the Yankees' six-game Subway skid. He saved the bullpen. He struck out eight. He walked none. He only gave up four hits. And, to top it off, he picked up his first major league hit, which he joked was the highlight of his night.

[+] EnlargeMasahiro Tanaka
Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY SportsMasahiro Tanaka allowed only four hits against the Mets.
Tanaka, 25, is 6-0 as a Yankee with a 2.17 ERA. His start is the best for a Yankees rookie pitcher since Whitey Ford's 9-0 liftoff in 1950. His 66 strikeouts to seven walks is the best ratio ever for a pitcher in his first eight games, according to Baseball Reference Index. The Yankees are 7-1 when he is on the mound and 13-18 when the mortals pitch.

Going back to Japan, he hasn't lost a start in his last 42 regular-season outings. 42!

Tanaka has seven pitches. Sometimes the Mets anticipated which one he would choose -- but it didn't matter.

"I knew what was coming and I couldn't hit it," said Daniel Murphy, who actually did manage to get one of the four hits.

What is most impressive about Tanaka is how in control he is in every which way. He seems to share some traits with Derek Jeter.

He is not overwhelmed on or off the field. He handles all the media attention as easy as facing a No. 9 hitter. But that little skill would not be applauded if he wasn't so good on the mound.

His competitiveness shows as he improves as games go on. The crest of his performance on Wednesday came in the seventh inning, when he struck out the Mets' 3-4-5 hitters. He took David Wright out with an 85 mph slider. He sat down Curtis Granderson on a 76 mph curveball. He finished the inning with a 93 mph fastball to punch out Chris Young.

"He stopped a losing streak, knowing we needed a win bad," manager Joe Girardi said. "We needed distance bad. You look up and he is in the fifth inning and he had only thrown 50-something pitches. He did what he had to do for our club. He really stepped up."

In the top of the ninth, Tanaka made Girardi a little nervous because the player he described as "valuable as anyone" on the team reached base with a single past a diving Murphy. Wearing a jacket, he survived the basepaths.

Girardi is going to treat Tanaka as the precious gift he has become for his frazzled pitching staff and team. Tanaka entered the ninth with 101 pitches. After he used 11 more for his first two outs, Girardi decided Wright would be his final batter.

Tanaka used a splitter to force Wright to line out to Jeter to end the game. The Yankees' four-game losing streak was over thanks to Tanaka.

"I knew we were in a little funk, having lost four in a row," Tanaka said. "I also knew we hadn't won a Subway Series [game] in a while."

Tanaka hasn't lost a regular-season game in a long while -- Aug. 19, 2012, to be precise -- and who is betting against him at this point? He is a quarter of the way to another 24-0 season.
Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.


TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Brett Gardner
BA HR RBI R
.283 14 47 68
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Teixeira 18
RBIM. Teixeira 50
RB. Gardner 68
OPSB. Gardner .816
WM. Tanaka 12
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135