For as well as Masahiro Tanaka‘s Japanese counterpart Hisashi Iwakuma pitched on Tuesday night, once his former teammate with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, the now New York Yankees pitcher was simply better on Wednesday.
The desired matchup on Tuesday would have been Seattle Mariners‘ Iwakuma versus Tanaka. The media in Japan was buzzing about its potential in the days leading up to last nights opening pitch. Unfortunately, a rainout on Monday changed Yankees skipper Joe Girardi‘s mind, and he decided to give Tanaka an extra day of rest. Sometimes it’s not about what the fans want or the media licks their chops about; it is about doing what is best for your ball club. And it seems Girardi made the right decision, as the Yankees won on Tuesday 3-2.
However Wednesday night was not such a close affair. Adequate pitchers are sometimes susceptible to offensive outbursts from the Mariners. But Tanaka is not an adequate pitcher — he is a dominant one. Playing small ball, tight defense and riding the arms of Felix Hernandez and Iwakuma is fine and dandy, but an inability to be clutch against pitchers like Tanaka is evidence a team is probably not ready to make a push for the playoffs. After all, success in October begins and ends with dominant pitching and fundamentally sound defense.
The Mariners struck out eleven times and mustered only two extra base hits on Wednesday night. To give you a better idea of Tanaka’s dominance in the win, it took him only 92 pitches to record 24 outs in his complete game. SP Chris Young for the Mariners threw 96 pitches to make it cleanly out of just the fifth inning.
Perhaps if the Mariners had Hernandez or Iwakuma face Tanaka they would have fared better, but they can’t rely on those odds to win ball games that matter. All that mattered was Girardi played his cards right, and Seattle could not solve Tanaka.