Masahiro Tanaka must pitch game of his life for Yankees

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 1: Masahiro Tanaka
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 1: Masahiro Tanaka /

Following a heartbreaking 13 inning defeat, the Yankees will turn to Masahiro Tanaka to keep them alive in the American League Division Series.

On Thursday evening, I found myself headed back home to Orlando from a business trip in Indianapolis. By the time I made it through airport security, Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez had already hit a two-run shot off the impenetrable Corey Kluber.

Wow, I thought to myself, this is exactly what I spoke about in that morning’s article — how the Yankees needed to jump on Kluber early in order to potentially rattle his cage.

A short time later, after enjoying some delicious Chick-Fil-A, I passed by a TV on my way to the gate to see the game now tied at two.

Not good. After getting off the phone with my father, I checked the ESPN app to see the Yanks had taken a 6-3 lead, following an Aaron Hicks three-run bomb. A short time later, Greg Bird launched a two-run moonshot to put Game 2 of the ALDS out of reach — or so I thought.

As I boarded the plane, set for a pitstop in Atlanta, I prayed Delta carried the MLB Network. They don’t. A little over an hour later, upon touching down in Braves Country, I once again checked my phone.

This time, to my displeasure, the Indians had rallied back to tie the contest at eight. That blasted Jay Bruce again! Sometime later, I found another TV outside a sports bar, only to witness the Ronald Torreyes getting picked off second base fiasco.

Suffice to say, I was about as deflated as a Tom Brady Super Bowl football.

So I got on another plane, set my final destination — waiting with trepidation to learn the fate of my beloved Bombers.

Ninety minutes later, there it was. A text from my father telling me that the Yankees had lost in the bottom of the 13th inning.

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Was I surprised — no. Disgusted — yes. Especially after reading the multitude of ways Joe Girardi and company let the all-important game slip through their fingertips. By now you know the mistakes Girardi made, and the inability of the players on the field to put the contest away — so I won’t irritate you by replaying them.

This is where we find ourselves. With their backs up against the wall, the Yankees will turn to a familiar face in Masahiro Tanaka.

In what could very well be his final start as a member of the Yankees, Tanaka will be asked to do everything possible to pitch like he did against the Blue Jays in his final regular-season start, when he struck out 15 batters.

Sure it’s only his second career Postseason start — the first one coming in a loss against the Astros in the 2015 wild-card game. That night, Tanaka labored through five frames with no run support to speak of. That can’t happen again.

Yes, the Indians are batting .349 with a .912 OPS, lifetime versus Tanaka, but he’s the best the Yanks have left. Luckily, the Indians haven’t seen him since 2016 — you know, when he was good. That night, Tanaka owned The Tribe, allowing one run in six innings while striking out eight.

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If Tanaka’s splitter is on, the Yanks have as good of a chance as any of playing in Game 4. If not, expect to see wild-card starter, Luis Severino early. And if that’s the case, we better hope the bats come alive — like they did for the first five innings of Game 2.