The 25-year-old Japanese right-hander, who is the ace of this pitching staff whether he wants to acknowledge it or not, did it again Wednesday night, shutting down the Seattle Mariners for eight innings as easily as if he were tucking a baby in for its nap. Tanaka has now made 13 big-league starts and the Yankees have won 11 of them. He leads the AL in ERA (2.02), is tied (with Mark Buehrle) in wins with 10, and came within two outs of throwing his second complete-game shutout. If only he could pitch every day. Or the Yankees could clone him!
Wouldn't ya know?: The only blot on Tanaka's night came courtesy of Robinson Cano, who having gone down meekly in his previous three at-bats, lined the first pitch he saw in the ninth-inning over the left-center-field wall with a man aboard to cut the lead to 4-2. It was only Cano's third home run of the season.
Striking performance: After having no strikeouts in the first two innings, Tanaka rattled off nine in the next four, striking out the side in the sixth. His 11 K's overall gave him 103 strikeouts in 93 2/3 innings, and his one walk was just the 14th he has allowed all season. Prior to Cano's blast, Tanaka's one semi-anxious moment came in the eighth inning, when he allowed a one-out double to Mike Zunino and a single to Brad Miller, but not only is he good, he is leading a charmed life. The next hitter, Cole Gillespie, lined one right at Brian Roberts to start an inning-ending, shutout preserving double play.
The Joy of Tex:Mark Teixeira belted Chris Young's 0-1 fastball over the right-center-field fence with two runners aboard to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead in the fifth. It was Teixeira's team-leading 11th home run of the season, and the three RBIs gave him 29 on the season, also a team-high. It was also his 17th home run at Safeco, tying Rafael Palmiero for the most here by any opposing player.
Model of efficiency: That would be Tanaka, who set down the first nine Mariners on just 26 pitches, 20 of them strikes.
Model of inefficiency: If you guessed the Yankees' offense, you win. They got two runners on, both speedy (Roberts and Brett Gardner) to start the third but came away with only one run. First, Derek Jeter popped out trying to bunt, and then, after Jacboy Ellsbury dunked in an RBI single, Mark Teixeira grounded into a forceout and Carlos Beltran popped out to the infield on a 3-1 pitch. In the first inning, Beltran also stranded two runners by striking out to end the inning.
Captain Fly:Derek Jeter stole two bases Wednesday, one in the first inning on a strike three to Ellsbury and another with Ellsbury batting in the seventh, the second drawing a bad throw by catcher Mike Zunino allowing Jeter to go to third. According to Katie Sharp, Jeter is the oldest Yankee in 100 years -- a century!!! -- to have two stolen bases in one game. He also joins Rickey Henderson and Craig Biggio as the only players in MLB history with 3,000 hits, 250 HRs and 350 steals.
Shift happens: The Yankees' obsession with moving infielders all over the place cost them a double play and Tanaka a baserunner in the fourth, but thankfully, the pitcher overcame the shift. After Tanaka allowed a one-out single to James Jones, the Mariners first hit of the game, an overshift on lefthanded hitting Robbie Cano made it impossible for brian Roberts to get to second in time to complete a DP on a tailor-made ball to Jeter. Then, with Roberts shifted over against the lefty-hitting Kyle Seager, a grounder that would have been easily fielded by a normally positioned second baseman became a single, putting Tanaka into a mild jam. Thankfully for the Yankees, Tanaka struck out Logan Morrison to save them from any embarrassing questions later.
Tomorrow: The Yankees try to sweep this three-game series behind Chase Whitley (1-0, 2.42) who faces LHP Roenis Elias (5-4, 3.64), first pitch at 10:10 p.m.