When the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka back in January, they knew he would be good. But did anyone really think he would be THIS good? Tanaka has become the unquestioned ace of the Yankees with his dominance seemingly never ceasing, and that dominance continued Saturday, as Tanaka threw 8 brilliant innings against the Twins at the Stadium, allowing only four hits, no earned runs, and striking out nine en route to earning his eighth victory of the year.
The lone Twins’ run came in the first on a throwing error by Kelly Johnson. The Yankees had a big opportunity in the bottom of the first with the bases loaded, and no one out. But Mark Teixeira struck out, and Brian McCann grounded into an inning-ending double play, and the threat went by the boards.
It remained 1-0 until the fourth, when Yangervis Solarte crushed a solo home run into the right field seats to tie the game at 1. Solarte had been mired in a lengthy hitting slump, but has turned it around considerably going 2-for-4 last night, and 3-for-4 today, against the organization he spent seven years in the minors with.
In the sixth, Yankees fans got a scare when Mark Teixeira, who sat out the entirety of the St. Louis series because of a sore wrist, left the game. He was replaced by Brian Roberts. It was later confirmed that it was indeed Teixeira’s wrist that was the problem, but that it was only inflammation causing it.
In the same inning, with one out and no one on, Brian McCann slapped a double into right center field. Then, after an Alfonso Soriano fly out, Yangervis Solarte came up again with a big chance to get some runs for the Yankees and he did hid job, lining a scorcher into right field. The only problem was that the ball was hit so hard, McCann had to stop at third, and Solarte, assuming McCann was going home (similar to the situation with Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner last night), rounded first and headed toward second. He was thrown out easily to end the inning.
Tanaka continued to mow the Twins down, but it looked as if the Yankees’ offense wouldn’t reward him with a win, until the bottom of the eighth, when Jacoby Ellsbury recorded a one out single. He then attempted to steal second, but Twins’ catcher Josmil Pinto, threw the ball into centerfield. That allowed Ellsbury to advance to third. Then after a Brian Roberts walk, Brian McCann lined a sharp double down the right field line, scoring Ellsbury and giving the Yankees the 2-1 lead.
Alfonso Soriano was then intentionally walked to set up the double play, but heavy downpours forced a rain delay. After the 30 minute delay, Yangervis Solarte popped up for the second out. Then Kelly Johnson, who was responsible for the lone Twins run, redeemed himself, hitting into an infield single, and pushing the Yankee lead to 3-1, providing some insurance.
It then went to the ninth, and David Robertson did what he does best, striking out the side to end the game, and sealing the win for the Yankees, and Tanaka. With the eight shutout innings, Tanaka lowed his ERA to 2.06, good for the best in the AL, and the fifth best in MLB. It was also Robertson’s 12th save in 13 opportunities, who has flourished in the closer’s role.