On May 31, Tanaka finally got his third win of the season by holding DeNA to one run in seven innings, perhaps because the team’s unity was strengthened by a rally held three days earlier at a barbecue restaurant in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, where all the first-round players gathered. Tanaka’s careful pitching down low earned him his first win since April 14 against SoftBank. On the podium after the game, Tanaka expressed his past anguish.
I had been pitching poorly, so I was determined to win no matter what. It was tough. It was tough.
As he said, Tanaka has pitched in a series of tough outings this season. The following is a summary of Tanaka’s struggles up until the start of the interchange games (the results are also from before the interchange games).
Until last season, he had a good record even if he did not win many games.
On May 12, he pitched five innings against Seibu and gave up four runs. After the game, Tanaka said in his defense, “I’m getting hit when I’m supposed to get hit.
After the game, Tanaka said, “I was hit by a pitch when I was supposed to be hit by a pitch.” Tanaka, who played in the majors, returned to Japanese baseball in the 2009 season, but has not performed as well as he would have liked due to a calf muscle injury. In each of the two years before last year, he failed to win double-digit games. Even so, Tanaka was highly rated because of the quality of his pitching.
In 2009, he allowed three or fewer runs in six innings as a starter in 17 of 23 quality starts. His WHIP, which indicates how many batters he allowed to reach base in an inning, was 1.03. This ranks second in the league behind Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who won all the pitching titles, including best defensive batting average, most wins, and most strikeouts. He also had the fifth-best earned-run average (3.01).
This season, however, his performance has not been good either.
His WHIP has dropped to 1.37, which is a steep decline from the 1.20 required of an ace. His earned-run average has also worsened to 4.37.
Considering the results in his prime (’13), when he was undefeated with 24 wins, one can’t help but feel that his performance is lacking. He used to dominate hitters with the “greatness” of his six consecutive years of double-digit wins with the prestigious Yankees of the majors, but his prestige has also been shaded. …… Still, Tanaka is not expected to be out of the rotation unless he is seriously injured.
One reason is that Kazuhisa Ishii, who was also general manager at the time, made an impassioned plea for Tanaka to play for Tohoku. Since he made the move himself, it would be difficult for him to remove Tanaka from the rotation.
The second reason is that Tanaka, who had 190 wins in Japan and the U.S. by last year, is on track to reach the 200-win mark, which is the standard for joining the National Famous Baseball Hall of Fame. Tanaka is the second pitcher in Rakuten’s lineup, after Takayuki Kishi, who can bring in more customers.
Will he be able to get out of the tunnel with a win in the interleague game? Whether Tanaka’s resurgence is real or not will be determined by his pitching from now on.
PHOTO： Jiji Press