Masahiro Tanaka has stepped up just when the Yankees needed him most.
With Luis Severino enduring another difficult outing in his last start, Tanaka threw eight scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts on Friday night, leading the Yankees to a 4-0 win over the Mariners in Seattle.
"He's been that way, I feel like, for the past couple of months," Boone said after the game, via Newsday. "He's had a couple of hiccups here and there, but for the most part, he's really started to lock it in. Again, the split finger right from the get-go was a factor, the slider was good, I thought he did a good job of mixing in his fastball . . . He was in complete command out there tonight."
He didn't even think he had his best stuff.
"To be honest, I felt like I didn't have my best stuff,'' Tanaka said. "But as the game went on, I felt like I was able to really get my focus locked in."
So, should Tanaka be the Yankees' wild-card game starter?
If the Yankees are going to make it to the division round of the playoffs, it sure seems that Tanaka would be the best man to have on the mound in the wild card game.
Tanaka, who is peaking at the right time, spun his best effort of the season Friday night, bringing his second-half ERA to 2.30. Tanaka has been everything the Yankees needed over the last two months, striking out 61 batters against just 10 walks in 58 2/3 innings. Tanaka has also been able to avoid the long ball in the nine starts, allowing just five homers.
The Yankees would have drawn up Severino as the wild card game starter as late as the All-Star game. However, the Yankees cannot wait on Severino to turnaround and replicate what Tanaka is already doing. With approximately three to four starts left before the wild card game (depending on rest in between), the Yankees should begin shifting their rotation plans to accommodate Tanaka, who tends to pitch better on longer rest.
Things can change over the next three weeks, however the current trends and recent history - Tanaka was masterful last postseason - are pointing to an easy decision for the Yankees.