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As New York Yankees Rotation Struggles, Masahiro Tanaka Cements Ace Status

May 4th, 2014 at 9:56 AM
By Michael Moraitis

Masahiro Tanaka is the ace of the New York Yankees starting rotation and in case you needed reminding of that, the Japanese star proved it once again on Saturday versus the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tanaka was stellar as always, tossing seven innings of three-run ball while allowing eight hits and racking up five strikeouts to zero walks. It certainly wasn't his best performance, but it was exactly the kind the Bronx Bombers needed from the best starter in their rotation.

Most importantly, Tanaka was the stopper for New York as his solid outing halted his team's three-game skid, which is what you'd expect from an ace. Not to mention, with a depleted bullpen thanks to no length from their starters of late and a 14-inning marathon the night before, the Yanks got the innings they needed out of Tanaka to give the 'pen a rest.

Tanaka improved to 4-0 on the season and his ERA sits at 2.53. He's the only Yankee starter to pitch six innings or more in each of his starts and that's not too shabby for a rookie.

Again, Tanaka wasn't perfect, but despite the runs he allowed he never let the game get out of control. That has been the theme for all of Tanaka's starts as he is either dominant or at the very least solid, never letting his opponents rough him up.

What seems to be Tanaka's best quality is not his strikeout stuff or his ability to keep his wits about him, but his ability to make adjustments throughout the course of a game. Even when he doesn't have his best on a particular day, Tanaka always finds a way around it and gets stronger as the game goes on.

The same can't be said for the rest of the Yanks' rotation as it has been in disarray these past few weeks.

Injuries to Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda have left the team short, and CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda have been less than ideal with ERAs north of five, although we've come to expect that from Sabathia while Kuroda's struggles are out of character and alarming to say the least.

Through all the turmoil, Tanaka has remained the constant. His steady hand on the mound every fifth day gives the Yanks an arm they can rely on to either get a winning streak going or stop a losing streak in its tracks.

There's no question Tanaka is the ace of this staff after the first month or so of the 2014 campaign. His contribution has been vital thus far to New York's success and the man who hasn't lost a regular season game since August of 2012 continues his march to what could be a sensational year when it's all said and done.

New York dropped an astounding amount of money on Tanaka this offseason not knowing full well what he would bring, but it was money well spent and that goes for every single penny of it.

Tags: Baseball, Bronx Bombers, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Japanese, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, MLB, New York, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays

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