It was 2013 when Masahiro Tanaka went 30-0 and led his team to a title.
Of course, that was in Nippon Professional Baseball, and Tanaka, a dominant seven-year veteran of the league, was the perfect person to help usher the Golden Eagles to their first Japan Series win.
Here in the U.S., Tanaka's playoff chops are untested, and he missed almost all of the second half last year, including the Yankees' failed attempt at a playoff berth. But with them in first place and a stretch run looming, both Tanaka and Joe Girardi are hoping that success he had in Japan can rub off.
"There's been a lot expected of him in Japan in these types of months and big games and you're curious to see how he handles it here," Girardi said, adding that there will be no innings limitations on Tanaka, who rehabbed a partial tear in his UCL last year. "I think he likes the big moment. I think he embraces it and it makes me think he'll handle it fine."
Tanaka, who's slated to take on Ubaldo Jimenez Thursday, has won his last two starts and is 6-3 with a 3.65 ERA. "Regardless of where the team is, I just want to go out there and pitch the best way that I can," he said. "Once we get really closer to October, then I think . . . the stadium atmosphere will be a little more exciting and [it] would change a little bit and in the clubhouse, too. Considering that, I think my thoughts might change at that point."
Ready for an encore
Andrew Miller got his first taste of the playoffs when the Orioles made it to the ALCS before falling to the Royals. Now he's hungry for more. "You don't realize how much fun it can be," he said. "That kind of atmosphere was the most fun I ever had playing baseball . . . [and] my expectation signing with the Yankees is every year, the only thing that's acceptable is playing in the postseason and expecting to win the postseason. That's what I signed up for."
With Peter Cappiello