One Slip Sinks Tanaka
Jon Lester Tops Masahiro Tanaka in Impressive Pitcher’s Duel at Yankee Stadium
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, JUNE 29- On Saturday night, a sold-out house of 48,433 at Yankee Stadium, the third largest crowd of the season, was attracted to another contest between the biggest rivals in baseball, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.
The two courageous and talented starting pitchers, Jon Lester of Boston and Masahiro Tanaka of New York hooked up in an outstandingly performed and fast moving pitcher’s duel.
Lester, 30, was starting his 237th game in the majors. The number of starts would be even higher, but Lester missed large parts of his first two seasons with Boston, 2006 and 2007, after being diagnosed with lymphoma in the summer of 2006. Tanaka, 25, was making his 16th start of his first season in MLB.
Lester pitched no-hit ball for the first five frames. The first hit he yielded was a single up the middle by Brett Gardner, leading off the sixth. After Gardner was thrown out trying to stretch his single to a double, the next two batters, Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury, each singled, but were left on base when the inning ended.
The only run given up by Lester was scored without a hit. Brian Roberts was safe on an error to begin the Yankee third. The next batter, Yangervis Solarte, was hit by a pitch. Gardner pushed them each up one base with a sacrifice bunt. The unearned run was scored on an infield groundout by Jeter.
Lester’s superlative performance of pitching eight innings without allowing an earned run, while only yielding five hits, was last equaled by a Red Sox pitcher in the Bronx when it was accomplished by Lester on July 3, 2008 in the original Yankee Stadium’s final season.
When asked to describe Lester’s outing, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi remarked, “He does what he always does. He cuts it; he sinks it; he locates. He pitched extremely well tonight.”
The leading Rookie-of-the-Year candidate, Tanaka, pitched his third complete game of the season. He walked one batter and surrendered seven hits, but only two pitches were responsible for his loss.
Catcher David Ross took a 1-0 pitch into the stands for a solo home run with one out in the third.
The winning run came with two out in the ninth on the 112th pitch thrown by the Yankee starter. With the count 1-2 on Mike Napoli, who had two hits and homered off Tanaka in their previous encounter on April22, Tanka threw a fast ball over the plate that Napoli sent into the right field stands.
Through his translator, Tanaka explained what happened, “The sign was for a breaking ball, but I wanted to go hard outside. That’s why I shook him [catcher Brian McCann] off twice. He asked for a splitter and a slider. I wanted to set up for a breaking ball on the next pitch, but I missed my spot.”
After the game, Girardi was asked why he didn’t remove Tanaka in the ninth. He responded with the following statement, “He’d been excellent all night. His stuff was really outstanding. I liked how he’d been throwing the baseball.”
Neither deserved to lose such a well-pitched game yet one did. Both deserved to win such a well-pitched game yet only one did. That’s baseball, a game of inches.