I wasn’t planning to write much about Masahiro Tanaka’s fourth start, in some ways his worst so far, although he did manage to go a season-high seven innings in his second loss of the season to the Nippon Ham Fighters. Tanaka, who is from western Japan but went to high school in Tomakomai, an hour or so from Sapporo, lost his first game at Sapporo Dome since he was a rookie in 2007.
He couldn’t locate the splitter at all and although he threw a lot of really good sliders as he usually does, one of the ones he missed got hammered, and his changeup was also problematic.
A week after his fastball command was really poor, he was throwing hard, but everybody was able to square it up. So either it wasn’t spinning as much or without his split the Fighters hitters were sitting on it the way they had in his April 17, when the ones he threw dead center got hit over the wall.
He mixed in some two-seam fastballs, which for a while had been a bread-and-butter pitch with the Yankees, but one he’s admitted he’s never had a great feel for. It did make the broadcast crew go nuts since the two-seamer has had kind of a cult status since Japan’s hitters struggled against it at the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Anyway, the reason I gave in and did a Tanaka post was I saw this on Youtube, and translated the bulk of his comments below.
“The Fighters beat me last time, so I came out wanting to get them back, but they got me again. I gave up early runs and put my team in a bad situation.”
“I want to thank you for so many comments.
Among those was a request about the pitch that was the turning point and hitters who impressed me.”
“Today, it was the first run, in the first inning.”
“There’s no mistaking (Kensuke Kondo) is a really good hitter. In the first inning, I had to throw good pitches to get him out. But he doubled off me when my control was poor and I left a pitch in the heart of the zone.”
“(In the third) there were no outs runners on second and third and then I loaded the bases with a walk. I got an out and then two. I was thinking that if If I can get out of that and hold them scoreless, things might turn around. My first pitch to (Shingo) Usami got more of the plate than I wanted it to, and he hit it for an RBI single.”
“Having gotten two outs, that was really a wasted opportunity for me. Had we gotten out of it, the game could have gone differently, but it turned out the way it did.”
“Then my teammate hit a home run and the lead was cut to 3-1. And then then Kondo hit a home run in the next half inning. Was that a bad way to allow runs? Well in order to win, there are points when you have to prevent them from scoring. Today, that’s when they hit me. So that was the reason my pitching lost us the game. After a game like this, it’s really hard to talk to anyone.”
“I changed my approach a bit, used my two-seamer, changed the axis of the spin. I think the best thing today was my in-game adjustment.”
“Until today, I’d only thrown six innings, but today I threw seven and was around 100 pitches. Of course, I felt I could have gone eight. I need to build up my strength, and go deeper. Of course, allowing fewer runs is important, but so is beinga able to throw more innings, and hand it over to my teammates in good fashion or even go the distance. That’s what I want.”
“Today was unfortunate. I can’t just leave it with them getting the best of me. Next time I pitch against the Fighters, I want to get them back. My next opponent will be a different team, but starting tomorrow I want to prepare my best so that I can do well in that game.”