And that’s why the Yankees are in first place in the division. Tonight’s game had it all. Timely hitting, phenomenal pitching, and good defense. The Yankees now have a game and a half lead in the AL East, and more importantly, saved their bullpen from working at all tonight. The real story here though is mostly Masahiro Tanaka and a little bit of Cameron Maybin. Let’s break things down.
Tanaka entered the night on a bit of a mini-skid. He had a 5.79 ERA in his last three starts, but that’s not the guy who took the mound tonight. Tanaka threw a complete game shutout, his first complete game of the year and the seventh of his career. He was economical, throwing just 111 pitches, and really had the swing-and-miss stuff working. His 23 swings-and-misses were a season-high both in volume and percentage. His 10 strikeouts also set a new season-high. In total, just three Rays reached base all night. If Tanaka were any more dominant we would’ve seen a no-hitter. Baseball fans simply don’t see many performances like that anymore. What an outing.
Tanaka did his job tonight. The offense did just enough too, with Maybin leading the way. With Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge set to return to the team soon, Maybin is fighting for his life, but man, is he putting the Yankees in a tough position. His single up the middle in the third was the first hit of the game, but Maybin’s heads-up baserunning allowed him to take second when Kevin Kiermeier misplayed the ball.
Of course, the hustle didn’t end up meaning too much because the next ball in play was a DJ LeMahieu home run. Not only did it give the Yankees a 2-0 lead, but it also marked the team’s 20th consecutive game with a homer. LeMahieu’s bomb was 103.4 MPH off the bat with a 27 degree launch angle. It went 410 feet and was his eighth of the year. He leads the team with 28 hits with runners in scoring position.
Maybin got the Yankee offense going again in the fifth inning, absolutely crushing one to left field to give the Yankees a 3-0. Rays starter Yonny Chirinos threw a sinker that didn’t sink, and Maybin took advantage. It simply wouldn’t be right to get rid of him when Judge comes back.
"His second home run in as many games! Hammerin Cameron!" pic.twitter.com/GjkayOQjsk— John Sterling Calls (@JSterlingCalls) June 18, 2019
Outside of the home runs, the Yankee offense didn’t get much else going, although Maybin did add a third hit. Credit to Chirinos for keeping the offense from busting out. He went six, allowing three runs and striking out six along the way. He was solid and earned himself a quality start, but the better pitcher won tonight.
Finally, Edwin Encarnacion made his debut for the Yankees tonight, and while he failed to add anything useful to the box score, he didn’t have a terrible game either. He struck out in his first at-bat as a Yankee, but he made Chirinos work for it. Chirinos had thrown 13 pitches in the game prior to Encarnacion coming to the plate, and it took 10 pitches to retire him. Strikeouts aren’t good obviously, but if you’re gonna strike out, at least drive up the pitch count.
He probably should’ve had a hit in his fourth inning at-bat. He lined out to short on a batted ball that had a .910 expected batting average per Statcast, but Willy Adames snagged it. Overall, Encarnacion saw 25 pitches over the course of four at-bats tonight. Obviously, it would’ve been a better night had he logged a hit or an RBI, but that’s an awful lot of pitches to see in a hitless game.
The Yankees probably won’t have too many more complete game shutouts this season, so let’s enjoy this one while it’s still fresh. Tanaka was incredible. Maybin put on a little offensive show too. The Yankees maintained the division lead, and Giancarlo Stanton comes back tomorrow. Life is good for now.