Yankees Postgame Notebook: 'Even Tanaka's not perfect'

06/22/2014 6:58 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Masahiro Tanaka suffered just his second loss of the season Sunday.(AP)
NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka gave the New York Yankees his 15th straight quality start Sunday, allowing three runs over seven innings in what could be considered one of his "worst" outings of the year.

But as close to perfect as Tanaka has been, you can't win games when you score zero runs, and that's what a dominant Chris Tillman held the Yankees to in an 8-0 Baltimore Orioles win on Old-Timers' Day.

"I thought he pitched effectively up in the zone with his fastball, his changeup was good, and they played pretty good defense behind him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about Tillman. "It's interesting, you don't say too often that you have to make a guy get his fastball down, but he's one of them. Usually you want them to get it up, but he used it pretty effectively."

"He's got one of those fastballs that when it's up in the zone, you just seem to get under it," Mark Teixeira added. "He kept us off-balance with a good changeup, which is probably his best secondary pitch -- especially against lefties -- and I give him credit because he pitched well."

The Yankees mustered just four hits off Tillman, but the first one could have changed the game. Brett Gardner slapped a ball down the right-field line that goes in the book as a double, but Gardner actually slid safely into third before coming off the bag.

He was called safe initially, but after a two-minute, 38-second review by the umpires, he was called out. Derek Jeter then hit a grounder to second in the next at-bat that could've been an RBI groundout, but as Girardi noted, you can't play the "coulda, woulda, shoulda" game.

"A lot of times you talk about how if you can get to a pitcher early maybe it affects them, but you never know what's going to happen," he said. "I don't have a problem with him going to third, he just came off the bag a little bit."

Ichiro Suzuki was 2-for-3 and reached on an error, and Jacoby Ellsbury's leadoff double in the fourth was the other hit, but the Yankees once again went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and only even got two -- Ellsbury in the fourth and Kelly Johnson with two outs in the ninth -- to third base.

A tough outing after a similar one Saturday, but Girardi knows there's going to be an ebb and flow.

"It's a struggle, but you go through that. They pitched effectively, and that's what they're paid to do," he said. "I think that's probably fair to say (we expected more from the offense), but we still have a long way to go, and I see signs of us swinging the bats better. It is what it is and we'll go from there."

On the mound, Tanaka's start was a tale of two ends. He allowed the first two batters to reach before escaping a jam in the first, but then scattered two hits and a walk over the next five innings before hitting trouble again in the seventh, when the first two batters reached again. He retired the next three in a row after that, but two of them were an RBI groundout and a sac fly that gave the O's a 3-0 lead.

"I started out with the home run, and after that I battled pretty well," Tanaka said through interpreter Shingo Horie, "but after that I gave up two runs in the seventh and I feel I let the game go there."

Added Girardi: "He pitched a pretty good game, he had given up just the one run through six. But we just didn't score any runs today."

One of those mid-inning hits just happened to be Jonathan Schoop's solo homer in the second -- the second homer Schoop has hit off Tanaka this year -- but in true Tanaka fashion, he said he didn't do anything differently against the Orioles this time, but did know right after the game what adjustment he'd have to make to prevent a third Schoop homer in the future.

"It was a slider. I was trying to get it in but I just didn't hit the spot," he said. "I think the pitch was similar to the one he hit a home run on last time."

By the time the bullpen allowed five runs in the final two frames it was already all over but the shouting, but the Yankees added a little injury to insult in that eighth.

In the top of the inning, Kelly Johnson was slid into harshly by Steve Pearce on a force play at third -- one that caused Johnson to make a throwing error and opened the scoring floodgates -- and while Johnson appeared to be okay, Girardi was a little upset about both the slide and the umpires' decision that it did not constitute interference.

"(Third base umpire Tom Hallion) thought (Pearce) could still touch the bag; you have to make an attempt for the bag, and he never made an attempt for the bag," Girardi said. "I'm all for playing hard, and I took guys out, but that's a pretty dangerous one because you're going after someone on the side, and that's how you hurt your knees."

Later, in the bottom of the eighth, Teixeira was hit on the foot by a T.J. McFarland pitch and had to leave the game, but luckily for the Yankees, x-rays were negative and he feels confident he'll be okay Monday.

"It's frustrating, and it's not what you want to see, but the good thing is the x-rays were negative, so we'll see how he feels tomorrow and go from there," Girardi said, with Tex adding that "I thought I broke my toe, but fortunately x-rays were negative so we're breathing a sigh of relief there."

The end result is a second straight loss, and, while it may sting to lose a game with Tanaka on the mound, Girardi noted that his impact goes well beyond just his innings on the hill.

"His impact has been really big, not just from the wins standpoint, but the distance and the quality of starts he's given us has been outstanding," he said. "He's not going to be perfect, but there have been days where he's been able to give guys in the bullpen a day off…his impact is much bigger than just the days he pitches."

"He keeps us in ballgames and only gives up one or two runs every time out, and that's huge for a team," Teixeira added. "He's been huge for us."

Tanaka won't pitch again until next weekend against Boston, but as Girardi looks back to the homestand he bookended and the upcoming trip to Toronto in between, the skipper perhaps put the most positive cap on the day he could've.

"You look at it, and we had a 4-2 homestand against division rivals. Big picture, that's good. It's disappointing because we were 4-0 and it could've been better, but we had a great homestand. We go to Toronto now, a team we're chasing, and we need to play well."

Added Teixeira: "Every game is a missed opportunity, and you want to win all the time, but we understand that it's a long season, and we've put ourselves in a spot to make a run. That's all you can ask for."

A few more notes from Old-Timers' Day:

-Tanaka said he watched a little of the Old-Timers' Day festivities but didn't speak to anyone (outside of saying hello to Goose Gossage). As is his character, though, he did say this when asked (perhaps very prematurely) if he could see himself as part of one of those ceremonies in the future: "I think the important thing is trying to become a very good player so that I would be invited on such occasions."

-Mark Teixeira said he was sore but okay and should be able to play tomorrow. His helmet might not be so lucky, and when asked about the helmet slam that accompanied his departure from the game, Tex was apologetic: "I broke my toe in 2010, and it's not fun at all. I thought it was broken again, so I just took it out on my helmet."

-Tex on the offense: "It was just one of those days, we couldn't get anything going. We've been swinging the bats pretty well lately, but we just couldn't do it the last two days."

-More Girardi on the Johnson/Pearce play: "I don't know if mentally (Pearce) meant to maliciously go after him, I think it's just playing hard, but it's something the umpires have to look at. A lot of times, if it's at second, it gets called, but at third and home it doesn't, and that's what I don't understand. I don't think he intentionally tried to hurt him, but it's a pretty violent and dangerous slide."

-Final word goes to Tanaka, with this response when asked what he's learned so far in his first three months in MLB and how he can carry that over into the second half: "I feel that I've learned so much that I can't go into great detail here, but I truly believe that every day you have to learn something new. I intend to keep on doing that and become a better pitcher in the future."

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