Two outs in the ninth, the count was one ball and two strikes, and Brian McCann wanted something offspeed. He called for a splitter. He called for a slider. Masahiro Tanaka shook off each suggestion. That’s why tonight’s decisive pitch was a 96-mph fastball that Mike Napoli deposited just over the wall in right field.
“The sign was for a breaking ball,” Tanaka said. “But I actually wanted to go hard outside with my fastball. That’s why I shook him off and threw another pitch. The fact was that I missed my spot, and it just kind of got into a spot where it was rather easy for the batter to hit. … Wanted to show the batter a fastball there, even if it was not in the strike zone.”
Rather than waste a pitch off the plate to setup — perhaps unnecessarily — a 2-2 breaking ball, Tanaka gave Napoli just enough to hit.
“There is no wrong pitch with Tanaka,” McCann said. “Every pitch he throws is the right pitch. He throws it with conviction. It was the right pitch, (Napoli) just barreled it up.”
Really need to setup Napoli in that situation?
“Absolutely. One hundred percent,” McCann said. “At the end of the day, it was 96 on the black. It was behind (Napoli) and he clipped it, and he barreled it. There is no wrong pitch for Tanaka.”
Of course, Tanaka struck out the next batter — and did so with a fastball — but that was Stephen Drew. Napoli had homered two times in his past four games. He came into this game with the second-best batting average and second-most RBI in the Red Sox lineup. Even down in the count, he was a threat in a one-run game, and he made Tanaka make for a rare mistake in an otherwise brilliant start. Nine innings, two runs, and one easy to second-guess decision.
“Just the fact that I gave up the home run,” Tanaka said. “It was the worst thing that I could have possibly done.”
• Plenty of postgame attention — online, not in the Yankees clubhouse — on the fact Napoli was caught on television saying “what an idiot” as he high-fived his way into the Red Sox dugout after the home run. If it were in an interview, or if it were directed at the Yankees, it might have been a legitimate issue in my opinion. But in that scenario — when pitch selection was a significant issue for everyone watching, and Napoli was celebrating with teammates — it just doesn’t strike me as a big deal. If you’re looking for some reason to get indignant, have at it, but a guy telling his teammates than an opponent was an “idiot” for throwing a certain pitch is far, far, far from the most offensive thing that’s said or done in the course of any given baseball game.
• Napoli to Ken Rosenthal about his “idiot” comment: “Nothing toward him. I thought he was going to throw me a split in the dirt. He had been getting me out all night on it.”
• When Tanaka shook twice, did McCann think about going to the mound to discuss the next pitch? “No,” McCann said. “He’s in full control of what he’s doing. It was a great pitching performance, it really was.”
• Tanaka has now lost consecutive starts. Of course, this time he managed to do that while actually improving on his league-best ERA which went down from 2.11 to 2.10. He’s is the first Yankees rookie to have three complete games in a season since Orlando Hernandez in 1998. Hernandez also had three, so Tanaka still has three months to pass him.
• Although these haven’t overwhelmingly felt like rivalry games, Tanaka was well aware that he’d made a mistake in his first home start against the Red Sox. “It was against Boston, obviously, and a lot of fans came to the stadium,” Tanaka said. “Wanted to go in there and try to contribute for us, but I think I came up a little short today.”
• Joe Girardi said he never seriously considered making a pitching change in the ninth. “I liked the way he was throwing the baseball,” Girardi said. “That was just if he got into some long at-bats we were going to bring in Robby, but he had been excellent all night.”
• Although the ball barely cleared the wall, both Tanaka and Girardi acknowledged that they realized quickly that this stadium might help the ball get out. “We know that that short right field can be dangerous,” Girardi said. “I’m not so sure how much it got out but I was worried when he hit it.”
• Jon Lester has been awfully good this season — he has a 2.92 ERA — and he was certainly good today. He had a no-hitter through five and the only Yankees run was unearned. Last time a Red Sox starter went at least eight innings without an earned run at Yankee Stadium was July 3, 2008 when Lester himself did it at the old Yankee Stadium.
• Jacoby Ellsbury was the only Yankees player to have more than one hit. Brett Gardner broke up the no-hitter in the sixth and is hitting .349 in his past 22 games at Yankee Stadium. Of course, Gardner was also caught stealing for the third time this season, which seems to have cost the Yankees a run since the next two batters singled and surely would have brought Gardner around to score.
• In his rehab start with High-A Tampa, CC Sabathia went 2.1 innings with two runs on three hits and a walk. The two hits in the second inning — when the two runs scored — each went off a fielder’s glove. “Couldn’t be happier with the way I felt physically out there,” Sabathia told our great friend Adam Berry.
• Speaking of guys throwing in Tampa, the Yankees announced that Michael Pineda made his scheduled 25 pitches from 60 feet and reported no issues.
• Final word goes to McCann: “You’re facing Jon Lester. It’s a marquee pitching matchup. These games happen all the time. This game was won late, but to be disappointed, he pitched as well as you can possibly pitch. The ball he hit out was 96 on the black. You move on. You tip your hat and move on. I can’t say enough about how good Tanaka is.”
Associated Press photos