Masahiro Tanaka spearheaded the Yankees’ pitching staff that shutout the Indians in Game 3.
NEW YORK — Masahiro Tanaka shut down the Indians with seven strikeouts over seven innings and Greg Bird hit a tiebreaking solo home run to give the Yankees a 1-0 win over the Indians in Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday night. On Monday night the win kept the Yankees season and sends NY into a casino game 4, when Luis Severino and Trevor Bauer will attempt to offer an appropriate sequel to Sunday’s magnificent outings. On Sunday evening in the Bronx here are 3 thoughts from an outstanding pitcher’s duel.
1. Holy Cow, What a Pitching Duel
Masahiro Tanaka’s tenure with the Yankees might be considered a full research study in inconsistency, but he produced the most remarkable outing of his profession with the growing season on the relative line. Flummoxing the Indians hitters along with his wipeout split-fingered fastball, Tanaka silenced Cleveland over seven innings, allowing three strikes and walking one just. Beyond a Jason Kipnis triple in the 4th inning, the Indians could muster any solid contact against the 28-year-old righty hardly. On the pumps of a seven-inning, 15-strikeout performance against the Blue Jays to conclude his season, Tanaka looks like the Yankees’ best starting pitcher right now. He induced an astonishing 21 swings and misses, including seven on his sinker, a pitch he threw just 8% of the time during the regular season.
As unhittable as Tanaka was the majority of the night, it was his order that was most impressive. When he needed strikeouts, these were got by him. After Kipnis tripled from Aaron Judge’s wrist with one out in the 4th, Tanaka struck away Jose Jay and Ramirez Bruce to get rid of the inning. After he strolled Carlos Santana to begin the 5th inning, Tanaka induced an inning-ending dual play from Michael Brantley two batters later. Kipnis was the only Indians player to see through first bottom during Tanaka’s outing. “He was outstanding. He provided us everything he needed so you can’t require more than what he do. It had been an evening where one run gained it and he didn’t quit any,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said afterward. Following a 13-inning game that taxed the Yankees bullpen on Friday evening, Tanaka offered a masterpiece that allowed the relief corps to work effectively in the late innings.
Indians starter Carlos Carrasco matched Tanaka’s standout performance in his first profession postseason start, but was relegated to second billing after a clunky 6th inning. Equipped with a devastating pinpoint and slider control in the first innings, Carrasco carved through the Yankees’ lineup the first 2 times through the order. He didn’t surrender popular until a Didi Gregorius one in the 4th inning, and Gary Sanchez was the only Yankee to rectangular him up for solid contact. Carrasco finished the entire evening allowing 3 strikes and 3 strolls while striking out seven over 5 2/3 innings. If the Indians progress to the ALCS, they may take comfort realizing that Carrasco isn’t fazed by the postseason. After Trevor Bauer’s stupendous Game 1 outing and Carrasco’s magnificent performance on Weekend, supervisor Terry Francona understands he has reinforcements available should potential AL Cy Young champion Corey Kluber struggle in his next start.
2. The Bird is the Word
Greg Bird broke the stalemate with a towering homer off of Andrew Miller—just the fourth homer given up by Miller this season and the second to a lefthanded hitter (the other was Dodgers rookie sensation Cody Bellinger). It was Bird’s second homer of the postseason, and a welcome moment for another promising Yankee youngster, but one who struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness for most of 2017.
While fellow young stars Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez basked in the Gotham spotlight through the summer, Bird battled an ankle injury he suffered at the end of spring training in the season’s first month. After electing surgery to have a bone removed from the balky ankle, he’d miss 103 games and have to fend off questions about his season being over.
The Yankees cycled through first basemen in his absence (Chris Carter, Garrett Cooper, Tyler Austin, Rob Refsnyder, Ji-man Choi, Austin Romine and Chase Headley among others) before he finally returned on August 26th. He acclimated nicely, hitting a pedestrian .253, but adding eight homers to secure his spot on the postseason roster. His home run on Sunday night may be a mere footnote in the annals of Yankee postseason lore, but he kept the season alive and delivered Tanaka a deserved win.
3. Aaron Judge made a huge play despite a quiet night at the plate
Aaron Judge typically alters games with his bat, but it was glove and towering height that saved the Yankees from a potentially debilitating sixth-inning deficit. Having shown no life against Carrasco, the Yankees couldn’t afford to trail with their season on the line. With the game knotted at zero, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor sent a Tanaka splitter soaring to rightfield.
While the average-sized human would leapt to try and save Lindor’s fly ball from becoming a home run, the 6’ 7″ Judge merely bounced from his toes to steal a home run from Lindor (as well as notoriously irritating ballhawk Zack Hample). It was the closest that the Indians would get to a run the entire night, and Judge proved that he’s capable of affecting a ballgame in the field.