The Yankees desperately needed a great start out of Masahiro Tanaka Sunday night, and he did just that to keep the season alive in Game 3.
There was immense pressure on Tanaka to come through in Game 3 with everything on the line, and he realized the levity of his start as he walked toward the mound.
"Obviously, you know the pressure was there," Tanaka said after the game. "But you know, obviously, you have to go out and perform. My thought was that if we're able to win here, then we have a chance of turning this series around."
Tanaka's mindset turned into reality as he put together a masterful perfomance. He came out of the gate hot -- striking out two of three hitters in a perfect first inning -- and he wouldn't lose steam. He continued to rack up strikeouts finishing with seven while allowing a mere three hits in seven innings of work.
It was just the outing the Yankees needed, and according to manager Joe Girardi, it may have been Tanaka's best in pinstripes in his career.
"I would argue -- I know he had 15 strikeouts [in his last start in Toronto], but that [Sunday night] was his best performance against a great hitting club that had momentum, and he was able to shut 'em down," Girardi said. "So that's the best performance taht I havev seen from him [as a Yankee]."
"He was brilliant. He gave us everything we needed and you can't ask for more. On a night when one run wins it, he didn't give up any."
Tanaka can thank Aaron Judge for keeping his shutout alive after robbing a Francisco Lindor homer. He also struck out two Indians in a row after Jason Kipnis hit a one-out triple in the fourth.
Indians manager Terry Francona agreed with Girardi saying Tanaka got the best of his starter Carlos Carrasco, who also put together a fine start allowing no runs on three hits in 5 2/3 innings.
"That's two of the better starting performances you are going to see," Francona said. "Tanaka, unfortunately, that was one of the better games we've seen all year."
For Tanaka, it has been an up-and-down year full of inconsistency. But, with the season on the line, his raw emotion -- and devastating splitter -- was on full display. It was crucial moments like Sunday night that Tanaka left Japan to come to the MLB in the first place.
"I came here to pitch in these types of games," Tanaka said, "and be able to help the team win them."