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By time the bottom of the ninth inning rolled around in Queens on Wednesday night, the ultimate result was in little doubt. The Yankees led the Mets 4-0, and the home team had been able to do nothing against Masahiro Tanaka all game. The only real question was whether Joe Girardi would give his ace a chance to notch the first complete game of his career as he approached what would be a personal high in pitches.
Girardi, indeed, sent Tanaka back out there for the ninth inning, and if there were any questions about him tiring, he quickly dispelled them with a 93-mph fastball on his 108th pitch of the night, five shy of his previous career high. He allowed a leadoff single to Bobby Abreu, but sent the next three hitters down to earning his first, but likely not his last, complete-game shutout in the majors.
Tanaka was again masterful on Wednesday night, dominating the Mets right from the start. He ended up allowing just four hits and struck out eight without walking a batter. The Mets had two men in scoring position all night, and never advanced a runner to third base. Tanaka ended up throwing 114 pitches, 76 of which went for strikes. He continues to be worth each and every penny of the $155 million the Yankees gave him this offseason.
Pick a pitching metric, any pitching metric, and Tanaka is no doubt excelling in it. Wednesday's performance pushed him to 6-0 with a 2.17 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. He's 8-for-8 in quality starts. He has 66 strikeouts against seven walks. He has struggled with the long ball, allowing seven home runs this season, but some of that owes to Yankee Stadium; four of the seven jacks he has surrendered this year have come at the hitter's paradise in the Bronx. With each passing start, Tanaka looks more and more like one of the very best pitchers in the majors.
To add further insult to the Mets, Tanaka picked up his first major league hit in the ninth inning, a single off Jose Valverde. That gave him exactly one more hit than all Mets pitchers combined this season.
Tanaka wasn't the only rookie to star for the Yankees on Wednesday, though. The parallel meteoric rise of infielder Yangervis Solarte has not received nearly as much attention. He went 1-for-3 with a solo homer, his fourth of the year and second in as many days. He also drew a walk and scored two runs. He's now hitting an AL-best .336 this season, and leads all Yankees position players with 1.2 fWAR, 0.5 more than Jacoby Ellsbury. It's tempting to say that a 26-year-old non-prospect has to regress, but he has been consistent through 140 plate appearances this season. He hit .303/.404/.461 in March and April, and is slashing .395/.431/.628 in May.
Not to be overlooked, the Mets got their own impressive pitching performance from a rookie on Wednesday. Rafael Montero made his major league debut, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks in six innings, fanning three batters. He never really had to escape from any trouble on the mound, with two of his three runs allowed coming on solo homers by Solarte and Mark Teixeira. The other run crossed the plate when Eric Young chose to dive for a sinking liner off the bat of Brian Roberts that ended up scooting past him all the way to the wall, scoring Solarte. Had he played it on the hop, the Yankees would have had runners on first and second with two outs and Tanaka at the plate, a quasi-jam that from which Montero likely would have been able to extricate himself. The 23-year-old Montero forced his way to the majors after going 4-1 with a 3.67 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 1.15 WHIP and 41 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings at Triple-A Las Vegas. With Jenrry Mejia permanently in the bullpen and Noah Syndergaard likely to remain at Vegas, at least until the Super Two deadline passes, Montero will have plenty of opportunity to prove that he should stick in the Mets' rotation. The Mets know what they have in a healthy Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, and they're pretty sure of what Syndergaard can bring to the table when he eventually gets the call to the majors. If Montero, too, can realize the potential that is inherent in being the No. 68 prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America, the Mets could soon have one of the most dominant rotations in the majors.