The New York Yankees lived to see another day thanks to Masahiro Tanaka, who won his first playoff game in the majors with seven stellar innings in a 1-0 win against the Cleveland Indians in Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Sunday.
Down 2-0 in the series and with the Yankees' season on the line, Tanaka (1-0) allowed just three hits and a walk, striking out seven against the team with the best record in the AL this year.
Tanaka was beaten in his previous postseason start back in 2015, when he gave up two runs in five innings against the Houston Astros in the AL wild-card game.
The Japanese right-hander had an inconsistent season with a 13-12 record and a 4.74 ERA, but fanned a career-high 15 in his final regular-season start versus the Toronto Blue Jays on Sept. 29.
On Sunday at Yankee Stadium, Tanaka picked up where he left off against Toronto, describing the victory as his most important since moving stateside in 2014.
"Of course there was pressure," Tanaka said after throwing 92 pitches. "But to be able to win under the circumstances, I'd say this is probably my biggest win since I came over to the majors."
"You live for these moments. To be able to perform in a situation like this gives you joy as a ballplayer. I want to give myself a pat on the back."
"I came to New York to pitch in big games like this -- and win them."
His skipper Joe Girardi paid Tanaka the highest compliment.
"He was brilliant. That's the best performance that I've seen from him," Girardi said.
Greg Bird provided all the scoring in the seventh with a moon shot to right off Andrew Miller (0-1). Aaron Judge kept Tanaka's gem intact with a game-saving catch in the sixth, robbing Francisco Lindor of a two-run home run.
"I knew once I got to the walls I was right there, and you know, when you're not hitting, you've got to make an impact on the game somehow," Judge said. "I was able to rob one there and keep the game scoreless for Masa."
Aroldis Chapman got the last five outs for the save to invite Game 4, scheduled for Monday night at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka said he was determined to step up for his team.
"We had our backs against the wall and I took the mound wanting to turn the tide no matter what," Tanaka said.