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Masahiro Tanaka hurt by home-run ball in loss to Indians
Lost a bit in Masahiro Tanaka's stellar rookie season has been a minor blight: a propensity to give up the long ball.
Entering Tuesday night, he had surrendered 13 home runs, but because of his overall excellence, the damage was limited.
That was not the case against the Indians, as former Yankee Nick Swisher hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning and Michael Brantley added a solo shot in the seventh, leading to a 5-3 loss at Progressive Field.
"It had a lot to do with the command of my pitches,'' Tanaka said after he gave up a season-high five runs and 10 hits in 62/3 innings. "I feel that a lot of my pitches were going right down the middle, where it's actually pretty easy for the batters to hit.''
Tanaka (12-4, 2.51 ERA), making back-to-back starts on regular rest, meaning every fifth day, for the first time this season, has lost three of his last four starts. In Japan, starters generally pitch every sixth day, an adjustment he said in spring training would be his most difficult.
Joe Girardi said "it's way too early'' to surmise that the workload is wearing down Tanaka, who hasn't pitched poorly in the three losses. Girardi called pitching every fifth day "an adjustment,'' but that most starters go through stretches in which they're not sharp. Girardi also said he didn't think Tanaka's stuff looked different.
Catcher Brian McCann said Tanaka "just didn't have his good stuff tonight'' but smiled when asked if he's concerned.
"If he gives up any runs, it's a big deal,'' McCann said. "He's human. They worked the count tonight, got big hits when they needed them, and that was it.''
Tanaka, through his translator, shrugged off the fatigue issue. "I didn't feel that bad going out on the mound tonight,'' he said. "Actually, I felt my fastball was a bit better than last time,'' referring to a 7-4 win over the Twins.
The Yankees (45-44), who won four of their previous five, scored at least five runs in each of the victories. But their offense shut down against Trevor Bauer (3-4, 4.23) after touching him up for three runs (two earned) in the first two of his seven innings. The Yankees had one baserunner after the third inning.
Tanaka took a 3-2 lead into the sixth, which Lonnie Chisenhall led off with a single. Swisher, hitting .198 with six homers coming in and 0-for-2 on the night, launched a 1-and-2 slider into the seats in right-center for a 4-3 lead.
"It was the first time we've ever seen him,'' Swisher said. "The first couple of at-bats, you're kind of feeling him out. In that situation, from the scouting reports and video we've seen, he loves that split-slider. When I got in that two-strike count, he'd been burying that split all night long. I was just lucky enough for him to hang that one.''
With two out in the seventh, Brantley hammered an 0-and-1 fastball to right-center for his 14th homer to make it 5-3.
"That's why he's an All-Star,'' Girardi said of the centerfielder.
Bryan Shaw pitched a scoreless eighth for the Indians (44-45) and Cody Allen a 1-2-3 ninth for his 10th save.
"Disappointed,'' Tanaka said of giving up the 3-1 lead. "The team came back for me and scored me some runs but I gave up some runs again. Very disappointing.''