Supported early by Aaron Judge’s 100th career home run, Tanaka outdueled Yusei Kikuchi in a matchup of Japanese starters. Kikuchi and Tanaka had conversed prior to Monday’s series opener, when Kikuchi – 2 1/2 years Tanaka’s junior – reflected about witnessing Tanaka’s success as a high schooler in the Koshien tournament.
The words were appreciated, but that feels like a lifetime ago to Tanaka, whose attention is focused on the present as he navigates his sixth season with the Yankees. Bouncing back from a troubled start against the Athletics, Tanaka improved to 8-0 in 10 career starts against the Mariners, scattering three hits in a 106-pitch effort.
“That was huge. That was a big performance,” Judge said. “He attacked guys and even when he got behind, he was able to work that slider in there, that splitter, and get back in the count. When he’s able to do that, he’s dangerous.”