About Last Night: Masahiro Tanaka

Last night, Masahiro Tanaka lost his first regular season decision since 2012. It's not necessarily surprising that Tanaka lost a game because I don't think anyone was actually expecting him to be undefeated this entire season. But what is a little surprising is which team was the one to "breakthrough" against Tanaka and hand him his first loss: The Chicago Cubs. Here's where all of the Cubs' hits landed:

hit-chart (26)

He set the Cubs down in order until Luis Valbuena connected on a first pitch fastball in the second inning:

atbat-summary (2)

The batter before him, Starlin Castro, actually hit a sharp liner to Jeter (also on a fastball):

atbat-summary (3)

But nothing came out of it because Tanaka retired the next two batters, Nate Schierholtz and Mike Olt to end the inning.

The third inning when the Cubs were able to score on Tanaka and it all started when catcher John Baker, who entered last night's game batting .063, hit a first pitch fastball for a single:

atbat-summary (4)

It was similar to the ball Valbuena hit for a double in the previous inning. And after Jason Hammel sacrificed Baker to second, Emilio Bonifacio hit an RBI single to knock in Baker:

atbat-summary (5)

As you can see, that pitch was similar to the Castro line out in that it was up in the zone, yet over the plate. The pitches to Baker and Valbuena were lower. The system we use to make the images is also saying that the pitch to Bonifacio was a splitter.

Valbuena's second double came on a 72 m.p.h. curveball that stayed up in the zone:

atbat-summary (6)

Mike Olt hit an RBI single after Schierholtz sacrificed Valbuena to third:

atbat-summary (7)

This one was barely in the strike zone and Olt still connected.

Baker then hit a double on another pitch barely in the strike zone (if going by that trusty box in the image):

atbat-summary (8)

Luckily, Tanaka was able to limit the damage and hold the Cubs' lead to 2-0 in that inning. Tanaka recovered well to strike out the side in the fifth but Luis Valbuena led off the sixth with another hit, this time only a single. And there's not much you can do with this. It was low in the strike zone and he was still able to put it in play. Sometimes, as annoying as it may be, you have to tip your hit to the batters when they do stuff like this.

atbat-summary (9)

Nate Schierholtz joined the party with this single:

atbat-summary (10)

Another not-so-terrible pitch that Schierholtz was able to reach out and stroke for a single. The Cubs hit two sacrifice flies to take a 4-1 lead and a throwing error by Mark Teixeira led to Schierholtz getting to third and scoring on that second sac fly. After the Cubs took that 4-1 lead, Tanaka's night was done when he got Chris Coghlan swinging to mercifully end the inning.

Perhaps, the most annoying aspect of last night's game is that Tanaka actually pitched a quality start: 6IP 3ER. The Cubs batters, as illustrated above, were just able to get to him. It happens sometimes.

[Charts and Heat Maps courtesy of the ESPN Stats and Info Department]