It took only three starts for New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to look like an ace and etch his name into the MLB record books.
Tanaka turned in his first truly dominant performance Wednesday since coming to America and signing a $155 million deal with the Yankees. He struck out 10, allowed only two hits (both bunts) and kept the Chicago Cubs off the scoreboard in the Yankees' 3-0 win. In doing so, he became the most dominating new pitcher to arrive in MLB since Stephen Strasburg in 2010.
The fact that Tanaka's gem came against the Chicago Cubs, another of his suitors when he was sold to the U.S. by the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan, only added to the Cubs' misery Wednesday. Tanaka chose The Big Apple over The Windy City, and he'll be the toast of the town in NYC soon enough if he continues to build on this early success.
— Pinstripe Alley (@pinstripealley) April 16, 2014
Let's be honest. It was the Cubs he stifled, the team with the fifth fewest hits so far this season, but that's not enough to tarnish what Tanaka has achieved through his first three starts:
• This was his second straight 10-strikeout game, and his third with at least eight Ks. He joins Strasburg as the only two pitchers since 1900 to strike out at least eight batters in each of their three first MLB starts, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
• Tanaka's total of 28 Ks through his first three starts is a record for a Yankees pitcher. Overall, that puts him third all time for most strikeouts in his first three games. Strasburg, for what it's worth, had 32.
• In that stretch, Tanaka's only walked two batters. Two!
• In Wednesday's win, Tanaka lowered his ERA to 2.05 and improved his record to 2-0.
More importantly for the Yankees, he's looking like he'll quickly assimilate into the ace pitcher the team needs. So far this season, the Yankees starting pitching ranks 22nd in baseball with a 4.48 ERA. Supposed staff ace C.C. Sabathia has an ERA of 6.63 through three starts.
Tanaka was 24-0 last season in Japan with a 1.27 ERA. It was assumed he'd become the Yankees ace considering how much they invested in him — the $155 million contract, plus a $20 million posting fee paid to his former club.
But right now he looks close to taking the ace throne three games into his MLB career. The Yankees have to be thrilled.
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