Tanaka's 15 strikeout performance leads Yankees to 4-0 shutout of Toronto

With the Yankees tragic number at one, the Bombers need a lot of help from the Houston Astros to have any hope of forcing a tiebreaker game with Boston for the division. In a beautiful day game in the Bronx, the Blue Jays came to the stadium to face Masahiro Tanaka and the Bombers. Tanaka started off as superb as could be, and the offense did enough to complete a 4-0 shutout.

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The Yankees started off hot as Tanaka retired the side with three straight strikeouts. The bats followed suit, after an Aaron Hicks flyout to start the game, a Jacoby Ellsbury single and an Aaron Judge walk put a runner in scoring position with one out. The cleanup hitter Didi Gregorius fought back from a 0-2 count to muscle off an inside curveball over the second baseman’s head to load the bases with one out. With Starlin Castro up to bat, the Bombers looked primed to clear some bases. However, they would settle with a RBI infield single from Castro.

As the players have said during the year, it’s all about passing the baton to the next guy so he can produce, and Greg Bird would do just that, hitting a sac fly to deep centerfield to put the Yankees up 2-0. Chase Headley looked to extend this lead with two outs and runners on the corners but struck out to end the inning.

The defensive success continued into the second, as Castro made an excellent dive to get Michael Saunders on a groundball for the second out. Tanaka struck out the last Blue Jay batter Ezequiel Carrera to end the inning to retire the side once again.

Tanaka continued his great start to the top of the fourth, striking out eight out of the first eleven batters faced. The righty's best pitch was his trademark splitter, something that the bodes well for the Yankees heading into October.

Tanaka was perfect through 5 2/3 innings until Ezequiel Carrera hit a soft grounder up the gap for the first hit of the game for Toronto, Castro couldn’t make the play despite an extraordinary diving save. After a stolen base by Carrera, the righty starter beautifully executed a pickoff play with Didi Gregorius to end the inning.

The Bomber bats were quiet since the first inning, only Greg Bird recording a hit since then, but the Yankees would strike again in the fifth. After Aaron Hicks reached on a fielders choice, the left fielder would steal second, bringing up Ellsbury. The lefty Ellsbury would line out to first for the second out, bringing up Judge. The MVP candidate added another RBI to his stellar rookie year with a single to left field but would get caught trying to return to first to end the inning.

Toronto would go to Matt Dermody in the sixth inning, adding Joe Biagini to the list of pitchers who couldn’t get past five innings against the Bombers. The Yanks have been great this year of getting the pitch count up early in games, which is a great team trait to have heading into the postseason where an exhausted opponent bullpen could mean more wins late in series. Didi recorded a single on the lefty’s second pitch and would end up stealing second on a Starlin Castro strikeout, the Yankees fourth stolen base on the day.


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The smooth-swinging Bird came up to bat and ripped a frozen rope off the right field wall to score Didi to extend the Yankee lead to 4-0. The Blue Jays went back to the bullpen, bringing in Danny Barnes. The righty forced Headley to ground into an inning-ending double play.

David Robertson came in to relieve Tanaka in the eighth and walked the first batter he faced. He would force a 3-6-3 double play with a great stretch for the second out by Greg Bird. Then in classic Robertson fashion, the great reliever would be out of any trouble as quickly he got into it by striking out the next batter he faced, ending the inning.

Dellin Betances would come in to finish off the game in the ninth. His second pitch was taken on one hop off the right field wall, and then a passed ball by catcher Austin Romine would put Betances in some trouble early. The wild righty walked his next better to bring up Josh Donaldson, and Joe Girardi would bring in Aroldis Chapman to finish off the game.

Chapman would strikeout Donaldson in three pitches. He then forced a ground ball to short, but a wild throw by Castro blew the chance of a double play, but luckily it would careen off the dugout back to Greg Bird, holding the runner at third. The flamethrowing lefty finished off the game with a strikeout of former Yankee Rob Refsnyder. As good as Chapman and the bullpen has looked, it seems that Girardi and company have lost faith with Betances in high leverage situations, something to watch moving forward.

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Tanaka looked stellar in his last regular season start, dominating with his command and splitter throughout the day. The righty recorded double-digit strikeouts for the fifth time this season, and first since August 27th against Seattle. He also set a career best for strikeouts in a game with 15, surpassing his old high of 14.

Although the Yankees pulled out a win today, they have to hope for an Astros sweep of the Red Sox for any chance of winning the division. The Bombers were in peak form today, firing on all cylinders, near perfect pitching, productive situational hitting, and aggressive baserunning all contributed to the win. Looking towards tomorrow, Jaime Garcia faces off against Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays as the Yanks look to hope to continue their scorching streak heading into October.

Winning Pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka (13-12 4.74 ERA): 7.0 IP, 3 H, 15K
Losing Pitcher: Joe Biagini (3-13 5.34 ERA): 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, BB, 3 K
Save: Aroldis Chapman (21)

Notables:
Greg Bird: 2-2 2 RBI, 2B (7)
Didi Gregorius: 2-4 R
Starlin Castro: 1-4 RBI (62)
Aaron Judge: 1-3 R, RBI (113), BB

Article by: Maxx Hotton

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