The 2014 season has been anything but easy for the New York Yankees thus far. A continuation of injury issues from last season, a lack of viable, consistent, offensive output, and a plethora of starting pitching and bullpen personnel changes have left fans searching the Internet for a current listing of the 40-man roster. One piece that has remained the rock for the Bombers this season? Masahiro Tanaka.
Tanaka proved his worth once again this past Thursday, in a non-dominant outing, but nonetheless, one worth of “ace” status. Why? He broke the Yankees’ four-game losing streak against the best team in the American League in the Oakland Athletics. No, Tanaka didn’t go 8 innings; he didn’t strike out 12 or 13 hitters, he wasn’t Cy Young-dominant. He was, what he is paid to be–the best pitcher on a staff that now looks to him to stop the bleeding. Tanaka went “only” six innings, and “only” struck out 4 hitters. At the end of the day, he had posted his ninth victory of the year. That’s what it’s all about…winning, and that’s why his teammates adore him:
“That’s what a true ace is,” said Yankees’ first baseman Mark Teixeira of Tanaka’s ability. “A true ace stops losing streaks. There’s not another guy we want out there after losing a few in a row than Tanaka.”
Nobody is a harder critic of Tanaka than Tanaka himself. He goes to the mound every fifth day, acting as is he has to reprove to the world each and every time that he deserves to be in the major leagues, and that he is worthy of the monstrous contract the Yankees handed him this past winter, without as much as having thrown a single pitch in the show. Tanaka knew how important it was to go out and get a much-needed victory of the Yankees:
“As far as my personal performance goes, I don’t think it was my best performance of the season,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “But given the fact that our team was in a slump or a funk and that we were facing one of the best teams in the league right now, I’m really happy I was able to contribute.” ~Masahiro Tanaka on his performance Thursday against Oakland
Joe Girardi isn’t ready to anoint the Japanese import as staff ace yet, but he doesn’t verbally have to. Everyone that watches the Yankees, and anyone that watches baseball already knows. At 9-1, and being the only consistent pitcher on a staff that had the likes of C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda, and Ivan Nova to start the season, he is head and shoulders easily the ace. Tanaka along with fellow countryman Kuroda, remain the only pitchers from the original five that are still in the rotation. For a guy that some doubted might break down or not be able to hold up because of his high innings totals in Japan, Masahiro Tanaka has been the ONLY picture of consistency for the Yankees starting rotation in 2014.