The video above is the final answer from last night’s Masahiro Tanaka press conference, and in so many ways, it tells the story of what’s made Tanaka so impressive this season.
Asked about the emotion he felt pitching at Fenway Park for the first time, Tanaka said he was “a little bit pumped up,” but only because he knew the Red Sox had a good lineup and he knew that the stadium tends to generate home runs and a lot of scoring. He wasn’t nervous because of the rivalry or the atmosphere or the attention. It was just another game in which he expected to pitch well.
“I think we’ll continue to learn about him all year long,” manager Joe Girardi said. “There are going to be firsts. There have obviously been things we haven’t seen him go through yet that he’s probably going to go through. We seem to learn something about him every night.”
So what did the Yankees learn last night? Mostly that Tanaka really can be the same guy even in a new situation.
“These are big games,” Jacoby Ellsbury said. “And for him to come in, the expectation he has on him, he’s been lights out. I couldn’t really expect anything more of him. I think his starts have been tremendous. He’s done very well.”
Last night’s game could have gotten away from Tanaka. He gave up back-to-back home runs and then a double in the fourth inning, but he got himself right back on track the next inning. Again, it’s a matter of not being overwhelmed.
“I think that’s a really good quality for such a young pitcher,” Girardi said. “Sometimes we forget that he’s only 25 years old. To be able to do that, we’ve seen him do it in really every start that he’s had; three of the four.”
How does Tanaka get himself back on track like that?
“It’s basically how I think to myself,” he said. “I try to tell myself, I gave up those runs but no more. And then just go ahead.”
Simple. Or at least, Tanaka makes it seem simple. Through four starts, he’s 3-0 with a 2.15 ERA, 35 strikeouts and only two walks. He’s been overwhelming, and never overwhelmed.
“He’s not just up there throwing,” Derek Jeter said. “He has a plan and he has been executing. … He’ll throw any pitch at any time. As a hitter, that’s tough. Whether he’s ahead of you or behind you, he really has no particular pitch he’s going to go with. When you’re up there throwing anything at any time, and you can control it, it’s going to be a challenge for a hitter.”