Tanaka’s forearm injury will cost him next start

Just when they were shaking off the negative effects of being swept in a four-game series by the Red Sox with two victories over the Rays to pull to 2 1/2 games of the second American League Wild Card slot, the Yankees were dealt a blow before Thursday night’s series finale at St. Petersburg, Fla., a 2-0 loss to the Rays.

Masahiro Tanaka will not be able to make his next scheduled start, which would have been Monday night at Toronto, the last road game of the season for the Yankees against the club now holding the first Wild Card position. Pitching that night would have put Tanaka in place to make one more start the final weekend of the regular season against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Now if Tanaka recovers in time as he is expected to, that start in the last homestand will be his last of the regular season as well.

Tanaka reported tightness in his right forearm after Wednesday night’s 11-5 victory in which he gave up four home runs in a game for the first time in his career. The victory improved his record to 14-4 with a league-leading 3.07 ERA that has him in consideration for the AL Cy Young Award, but being sidelined hurts his chances.

An MRI exam revealed that Tanaka, who has pitched 199 2/3 innings this season in his 31 starts, has a small flexor mass strain in his right forearm. Yankees manager Joe Girardi termed the ailment “slight” and that it had no connection to the righthander’s ulnar collateral ligament.

Tanaka will not throw at all for five days. The Yankees are hopeful that a rested Tanaka will be on schedule to start one of the final three games of the season against the Orioles. Girardi did not name a starter to take Tanaka’s place Monday night at Toronto.

It certainly puts a crimp in the Yankees’ late-season charge to lose the staff ace for an important start. The Yankees are 23-8 in Tanaka’s starts.

The 11th shutout loss of the season hurt the Yankees’ chances to continue to move up the standings. Luis Cessa gave up a first-inning run on three singles and not another until Corey Dickerson homered with two out in the sixth.  The Yankees kept leaving runners on base in every inning but one and stranded 11 overall while going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

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