Tanaka Throws Complete Game, Four Hit Shutout over Mets

Howard Goldin

Flushing, NY---On Wednesday, the scene of the Subway Series shifted from Yankee Stadium to Citi Field. Judging by the particulars of the starting pitchers, the scene may have also shifted from the past to the future. Hiroki Kuroda, 39 years of age, and Bartolo Colon, 40, were the starters in game #1 on Monday. Both are nearing the conclusion of long and impressive careers.

Wednesday’s starter for the Yanks, Masahiro Tanaka, 25, was signed to a seven year contract for $155 million by the New York Yankees in January of 2014. The Japanese native had completed seven seasons of outstanding performances with the Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Tanaka’s brief time with the Yankees has thus far been a continuation of his pitching excellence in Japan. His complete game shutout of the Mets on Wednesday improved his won/loss mark this season to 6-0, which  raised his regular season consecutive game winning decisions to 34. He has started the last 42 regular season games without a loss. His most recent loss was on August 19, 2012.

The Mets skipper, Terry Collins, who managed the Orix Buffaloes in the NPB in 2007-8, is familiar with Tanaka’s high level of pitching ability as those were Tanaka’s first two years in Japanese baseball. Collins remarked, “Everything’s a strike. He’s always around the dish. This kid’s great.”

Tanaka’s stats for the night were great. He scattered four hits, struck out eight and didn’t issue a walk for the fourth time in his eight starts in the majors. He has fanned 66 batters in his first eight games in MLB, which ranks fifth since 1900.

The post-game comments of Mets second sacker Daniel Murphy, who singled in the first frame were telling, “I knew what was coming. I just couldn’t hit it.”

To add to the excvitement for the young Japanese hurler, he singled with two out in the ninth, his first hit in the majors. He said, through his translator, “Everybody was telling me before I went into the batter’s box, ‘Go get a hit.’ I feel great that I was actually able to get a hit.” To put that accomplishment in perspective, one should note that the entire Mets pitching staff has yet to get a base hit this season.

The second, although lesser, part of the main story was the major league debut of Rafael Montero, the Mets starter.

On Sunday of last week, Collins commented upon the young pitchers in the farm system of his club who would some time this season be coming to the majors, “It’s going to be real exciting when they get up here.”

The first of those days was on Wednesday when Rafael Montero, 23, made his major league debut as the Mets starter. Montero is the only Met to make his debut in the big leagues during a Subway Series game other than Jaime Cerda in 2002.

The native of the Dominican Republic was signed by the Mets as a non-drafted free agent in January of 2011. The three time Sterling Award winner in his three minor league seasons has risen very quickly to the majors. This season the righty has compiled a record of 4-1 with an ERA of 3.67 with Triple A Las Vegas.

Montero tossed 6.0 innings, allowing three runs and five hits.

“Just tried to throw strikes,” said Montero about his debut on the big stage of the Subway Series.

Prior to the game, Collins gave the youngster very high praise, “I feel that his maturity is beyond his years as a pitcher. The guy has a feel for pitching. He knows when to pitch inside. He’s a strike thrower with all his stuff. I don’t think he’s going to be intimidated. Obviously, he might be a little anxious, but I think once he goes out there he’s going to be who he is because that’s his mentality.”

Much of what Collins stated was borne out by Montero’s performance. He yielded five hits and three runs, two by solo home runs, one by rookie YangervisSolarte, who is leading the American League in batting average, and one by Mark Teixeira in six innings.

After the game, Collins remarked, “I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Brett Gardner, the lead-off batter for the Yanks, had praise for the Mets rookie, “He seems like he belongs here, very poised. He’s got a good arm.”

The final game of the Subway Series on Thursday night will be started by two young hurlers, each making his first appearance in the majors, Chase Whitley for the Yankees and Jacob de Grom for the Mets.

howardg53@yahoo.com