SEATTLE – The trademark that accelerated Masahiro Tanaka's path to the Majors was his possession of a devastating splitter that encouraged tests all over the globe to disperse or make poor contact. As he continues to invent his arsenal, the slider has become a step worthy of attention for
SALE – The trademark that accelerated
That was the case on Tuesday night when Tanaka threw seven masterfully meaningless passes in the Yankees' 7-0 victory over the Sailors at T-Mobile Park. Tanaka leaned against the slider more than any other grip, mixing it with his quick bubble and splitter to create a dominant three-stage mix.
• Result from the box
"I think I did pretty well. I work for me today," Tanaka said through a translator. "I'm not sure if it really got better, but I could feel that my slider was always pretty consistent and going back to last year. "
Backed early by 100th home career of
Words were appreciated, but it feels like a lifetime before Tanaka, whose focus is on the present as he walks through his sixth season with the Yankees, facing a difficult start against Athletics, Tanaka improved to 8-0 in the 10 starts of his career against the Mariners, scattering three hits in 106 steps.
"That was huge. It was a great performance," the judge said. "He attacked the boys, and even when he was falling behind, he could work with that slider inside, this splitter and go back in number. When he manages to do that, he's dangerous."
Of those pitches, 42 were sliders generating eight swinging strikes, 12 called strikes and seven foul balls. Yankees manager Aaron Boone admired Tanaka's increasing confidence in the slider.
"There were a number of starts, especially at the beginning of the year, when this rift was inconsistent for him," Boone said. "That was the secondary that he had to lean on. He was forced to be really strong with him. I think this is a step that continues to improve for him."
Tanaka holds Seattle scoreless until the fifth inning when Kyle Siger opens the double-right field frame, then Tanaka continues to stop in a gem with a seven-hit walk. His lifetime 1.89 ERA against the Mariners is his lowest of any club to make at least three starts against.
"He doesn't throw very fast hitting balls," Mariners manager Scott Servays said. "With young strikers and an aggressive team like us, you get into the numbers of these fastballs and he has the ability to break away a little bit and go to the slider or spacer. He has a lot of experience and knows how to steer. "
While Kikuchi was amplified to begin with, pointing out Tanaka as one of his baseball idols, the judge hit several tracks on the rookie, left almost instantaneously. With DJ LeMahieu on board, Judge slid a 462-meter rocket out of the dough eye into a dead center field for a double homer.
Judge's 100th homer came in his 371rd career game. Only Ryan Howard (325 games) and Gary Sanchez of the Yankees (355 games) made it faster. Brett Gardner added a three-run homer to Kikuchi's third inning, which was ordered with five runs and eight hits over four innings.
"First and foremost, getting some early escapes from our crime, I think it helped."
Tanaka's strong efforts put the Yankees in a position to spot a winning streak if they complete a preview of the Mariners on Wednesday, and that will look like a long shot after the last three months in Auckland.
New York rebounded with two wins in three games against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, a series that could have ended with the Yankees, if not for a late, controversial call-up in the middle set game. Nonetheless, the perfect formula for high impact and big bangs worked out perfectly in this one.
"When we didn't play well in short stretches, we did a good job turning the page around and things going in the right direction," Gardner said. "This kind of starts with Masahiro and what he did tonight. It's really fun to watch him get up."
Brian Hoch has been covering the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.