Fine, so after the Yankees were deemed the world’s fourth-most valuable sports franchise (via Forbes) on Monday at $3.2 billion, the $155 million they’re paying Masahiro Tanaka can only be called the relative big bucks. Still, the Steinbrenners made him the fifth-highest paid pitcher in history for performances like Sunday night, when he simultaneously salvaged any chances for another division title, while also giving Yankee fans reasons for optimism about the dreaded Wild Card playoff game.
The first three games of this weekend’s critical showdown in the Bronx went disastrously for New York. The Jays brought a 2.5 game lead into New York, and after a rainout Thursday, prized prospect Luis Severino faced David Price, and the rookie was rocked in the first crucial start of his career. (At the trade deadline, GM Brian Cashman did not shop Severino and other top prospects in pursuit of big-name pitchers, including Price—a polarizing, un-Yankee strategy). Toronto scored five runs through their first six hitters. Josh Donaldson hammered one into a section of the left field stands where only 2007 A-Rod used to reach. Times have changed though, as 2015 A-Rod golden sombrero’d (struck out four times) in the 11-5 loss – a far cry from his 2007 form.
Saturday’s doubleheader was most of the same. In the early game, the teams battled for 10 innings and used a combined 15 pitchers, only for Chasen Shreve to revert to little-league days and walk home three runs in the 11th, sealing a Jays win. In the night game, in front of a sparse crowd for a dire game, Ivan Nova delivered just what New York’s tired bullpen ordered, holding Toronto to just six runs over 1.2 innings.
In early August, the new-look Jays made their first Bronx visit, sweeping the Yanks while outscoring them 10-1. The Yankees managed to actually score some runs this time around, but the Jays held a 4.5 game lead entering Sunday. Another sweep at home to Toronto would surely have been backbreaking, especially on the heels of news that Mark Teixeira will miss the rest of the season (including the postseason).
In their most important game of the season, Tanaka was filthy, firing seven shutout innings with no walks and seven Ks. Blockbuster deadline acquisition Dustin Ackley hit his first homer in pinstripes and the Yankees spared the city of another humiliating sports loss Sunday night, reserving the front-pages for sad Eli Manning faces.
The Yankees still sit 3.5 games back of the league’s hottest team with 20 games left. They’re more banged up than they’ve been all season, and the starting pitching is unreliable. Michael Pineda and Nova look great at times, and lost at others. CC is a fringe rotation guy at this point with chronic knee issues. Wins leader Nathan Eovaldi is likely out for the season. Severino is talented, but unproven.
Before even talking about who would start Games 1-2-3 of the ALDS, the Yankees will probably have to win the Wild Card game. Tanaka will get the ball that game, and he’ll have to pitch like an $155 million ace. Sunday night, he gave the long-suffering Yankee fans hope he can deliver.
Source: New York Post