Tanaka impressive in tough Yanks loss

Masahiro Tanaka’s first appearance before the home crowd at Yankee Stadium was a measured success. It could have been better, of course, if he had come away with a winning decision or the Yankees had won the game. Nevertheless, Tanaka pitched well enough to win and kept his team in the game, which is the primary responsibility of a starting pitcher.

With a press box jammed with Japanese media, Tanaka gave his countrymen and women plenty to write home about. A Stadium crowd of 39,412 gave him a standing ovation when he walked to the dugout at the end of the seventh inning as the fans sensed his night was over after having thrown 101 pitches, many of them quality.

There was quite a bit and oooing and ahhing in the stands back in the second inning when Tanaka gave up a thunderous, three-run home run to left field to Orioles third baseman Jonathan Schoop. Tanaka settled in nicely after that and allowed only three singles and a walk through the seventh. He retired the last seven batters he faced and finished with 10 strikeouts.

“He battled after a tough start and made good pitches when he needed them,” manager Joe Girardi said. “His strongest inning make have been his last one.”

That was the seventh when Tanaka struck out two batters and got the other on a come-backer to the mound.

Tanaka also had some fine glovework behind him, notably in the sixth inning when Alfonso Soriano made a belly-flop catch in the dirt cutout near the left-field line and Brian Roberts a deft pickup of a scorching, one-hopper on back-to-back plays.

The Yankees slowly pulled back into the game with solo home runs in the second by Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson and a game-tying run in the fourth on a double by Beltran and two infield outs. The Yanks had a good chance to take the lead in the eighth when Brett Gardner led off with a double to right and was bunted to third base by Derek Jeter, but Jacoby Ellsbury popped out and after an intentional walk to Beltran Brian McCann flied out to deep center.

The game fell apart for the Yanks in the ninth when the Orioles jumped on Shawn Kelley for two runs and four hits. The Yankees got a run back in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Roberts, but Yangervis Solarte grounded into a game-ending double play.

The loss dropped the Yankees’ record under .500 at 4-5, equal to Baltimore’s, with the Red Sox heading to New York for a four-game series beginning Thursday night.

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