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Tanaka extends October dominance

Righty lowers postseason ERA to Yankees-record 1.50
October 7, 2018

BOSTON -- There's something about October that seems to bring the best out of Masahiro Tanaka.Tanaka proved himself to be a big-game pitcher last October, posting a 0.90 ERA in three starts during the Yankees' memorable postseason run.• ALDS presented by T-Mobile, Game 3: Today, 7:40 p.m. ET on TBSThat

BOSTON -- There's something about October that seems to bring the best out of Masahiro Tanaka.
Tanaka proved himself to be a big-game pitcher last October, posting a 0.90 ERA in three starts during the Yankees' memorable postseason run.
ALDS presented by T-Mobile, Game 3: Today, 7:40 p.m. ET on TBS
That trend continued on Saturday night as Tanaka fired five strong innings for the Yankees, who evened up the best-of-five American League Division Series with a 6-2 victory over the Red Sox in Game 2 at Fenway Park.
"I do think it helped me," Tanaka said through an interpreter of his success last October. "I think the experience in the playoffs last year, I think it actually helped me during the regular season as well. You kind of look back at that time and see what you did, and go about today's game."
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In five career postseason outings, Tanaka's 1.50 ERA is the lowest for any Yankees pitcher in history with at least that many starts. In fact, only four pitchers in Major League history have a lower ERA in the postseason with a minimum of five starts.
"I take that pressure as a positive, I think," Tanaka said. "As a player, you can't ask for more for than being able to play in such a game like this."
There were some who believed Tanaka should have started instead of Luis Severino Wednesday's AL Wild Card Game against the Athletics, but the Yankees must have been very pleased to have Tanaka on the hill for Saturday's Game 2 instead.
Tanaka had not fared well against the Red Sox in his four starts this season, getting hit hard to the tune of a 7.58 ERA. He posted a 3.47 ERA in 15 road starts, though that number would have been even lower if not for his 6.52 ERA in two starts at Fenway.
He failed to get through five innings in each of his last two outings against Boston, so his work was cut out for him as he took the mound trying to pull the Yankees even in the ALDS.

The right-hander answered the call, holding the Sox to one run on three hits and a walk over five innings before turning the lead over to the Yankees' beefed-up bullpen.
"Masahiro was terrific," manager Aaron Boone said. "Set the zone; really efficient with his pitches, mixing early, command."
Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez helped stake Tanaka to a 3-0 lead after two innings, belting a pair of home runs against David Price. The run support seemed to help Tanaka ease into his outing, as he retired nine of the first 11 batters he faced, allowing a pair of harmless singles through three innings.
Xander Bogaerts hit a solo shot off Tanaka in the fourth, but the right-hander locked it down after that, sitting down five of the next six Red Sox hitters to hold the 3-1 lead through the fifth inning. Aside from the home run, no Boston batter advanced beyond first base against Tanaka.

"He was just executing pitches, keeping the ball low, attacking hitters," Sanchez said through an interpreter when asked about his batterymate. "I think that was the key tonight."
Mookie Betts' loud fly ball to center field ended the fifth, and although Tanaka was at only 78 pitches, Boone decided it was time to call on his bullpen for the final four frames.
Given Tanaka's numbers this season when facing a lineup for a third time -- opposing clubs had a .914 OPS in those situations compared to .659 and .652 the first and second time through the order -- the move was hardly a surprise.
"The Red Sox, they do a really good job of putting the ball in play, and they can be a tough out, especially even when he's got his split," Boone said. "But it was five strong innings for us to really set us up in a good position, and fortunately we were able to add on once he got out of there."

Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for MLB.com.