Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka got the start Thursday night in the first game of an important four-game series against the Red Sox. The series probably has more juice for the Red Sox than for the Yankees—the Red Sox sound like they might be a couple bad days away from shifting into seller mode as they sit 11 games back in the AL East and fourth in the AL Wild Card—but Yankees-Red Sox is meaningful anytime both teams are good. Perhaps for the next one of these, the Yankees ought to consider gluing Tanaka to the bench.
Tanaka’s first inning was a complete fiasco, highlighted by Xander Bogaerts’s three-run, 451-foot bomb to left, which came before Tanaka had recorded a single out:
The Red Sox batted around and shelled Tanaka for seven runs in the first inning. Tanaka threw 39 pitches. Aaron Boone, perhaps having accepted that the game was already all but over, sent Tanaka back out for the second inning, and Tanaka seemed to settle down for six reasonably clean outs. But the fireworks resumed in earnest in the fourth inning:
That Rafael Devers dinger was one of three extra-base hits allowed by Tanaka in the fourth before Boone finally, mercifully yanked him out of there. His final line is pure carnage: 10 outs, 87 pitches, 12 hits, three walks, 12 runs, all of them earned. According to Baseball Reference, Tanaka’s outing was the first time in franchise history that a Yankees starter has allowed 12 or more runs while recording 10 or fewer outs. David Wells in 1997 was the only other Yankees starter to allow as many as 11 runs while recording 10 or fewer outs. The Yankees have been around for 106 years—they’ve got a lot of history! Being the first to accomplish some positive milestone or feat in Yankees history is very special; being the first to fail so spectacularly is, well, it’s real bad.
This next fact is either amazing or heart-breaking or both: after Tanaka’s historically awful start Thursday night, his earned run average against the Red Sox in 2019 has actually gone down. The only other time he’s faced Boston this season, on June 29, Tanaka gave up six earned runs on 37 pitches, while recording just two outs. His ERA in that game was 81.00; his ERA against Boston after two outings now sits at a disgusting 40.50. The Yankees have two more series left against Boston—all I’m saying is maybe they should consider going to an opener if Tanaka’s spot comes back up in the rotation.
For added kicks, earlier this very day noted sports grouch Mike Francesa took a few moments on his radio show to gush about Tanaka. His analysis isn’t wrong, necessarily, but the timing is delightful: