Masahiro Tanaka’s best pitch has abandoned him — and that’s not the only thing
Masahiro Tanaka was once again without his trademark splitter on Tuesday.
To make matters worse, his outfield betrayed him more than once.
The right-hander still managed to come through with one of his best outings in nearly a month, allowing two runs in 6 ¹/₃ innings in the Yankees 5-4 comeback win over the Mariners in The Bronx, but there remained worrying signs.
For one, Tanaka’s signature pitch was mostly missing.
He barely threw it during the latter part of his outing — and when he did, Edwin Encarnacion crushed it for a homer.
“It wasn’t as sharp as I want it to be,’’ Tanaka said through an interpreter. “Obviously, you want that split and I think it’s a priority for me to get that split back. But some days you have it and some you don’t. I’ve got to find a way to get through and eat up innings without having that pitch. I was able to do a pretty good job of that.’’
What also stood out Tuesday were his reactions to some mishaps in the outfield.
He made his displeasure clear on a pair of bad plays in the outfield — both involving Clint Frazier.
Tanaka yelled on the mound after Frazier and center fielder Brett Gardner let Jay Bruce’s routine fly ball to right-center fall in between them for a fourth-inning single.
Aaron Boone called it “a lack of communication” on the play.
Tanaka, though, rebounded and got Tim Beckham to fly to left and Ryon Healy to pop up in front of the plate to get out of the inning with the game tied.
Frazier made another fielding mistake in the seventh, when Beckham led off with a fly ball to deep right. With the wind and rain playing a factor, Frazier still got to the ball in time, but it tipped off his glove for a two-base error and Tanaka looked out to right again.
“It wasn’t hard for me to get back into the game after the miscues,’’ Tanaka said. “I was able to control myself well enough to get back in the game.’’
Boone said outfield instructor Reggie Willits, Frazier and Gardner talked about the plays and “hopefully it’s one of those things you learn and grown from.”
They survived Tuesday, as Tanaka whiffed Ryon Healy to get back on track, but the rain became heavy and play was stopped for over an hour. The ensuing 72-minute delay ended Tanaka’s night, which might have been over even without the stoppage, since he had thrown 95 pitches and Jonathan Holder was warming in the bullpen.
In all, it wasn’t a bad performance by Tanaka, who was shaky in his previous two outings and three of his last four. But Tanaka won’t be able to be nearly as effective as the Yankees need him to be until he rediscovers his split.
“It’s not necessarily location,’’ Tanaka said. “It’s the feel and movement. That’s not there and it needs to be adjusted. … I’m just looking forward.”
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