Masahiro Tanaka loses for the first time since 2012
CHICAGO - Joe Girardi pondered the streak Masahiro Tanaka brought into Tuesday night. "It's pretty incredible," Girardi said.
Tanaka entered the game unbeaten in 42 regular-season starts, not having lost since Aug. 19, 2012, in Japan.
Tanaka pitched well enough against the Cubs to continue his streak, but received little offensive support in a 6-1 loss in front of 38,753 at Wrigley Field.
"A lot of things have to go right to have such a long winning streak," Girardi said afterward. "Sometimes your offense is going to have to pick you up a little bit and we just didn't do it tonight."
Said Tanaka: "I'm a little disappointed because I think a lot of fans were looking for me to keep on winning. Next time out, I'll try to get it going again."
Facing a team a second time for the first time in his MLB career -- the Cubs, who he shut out in eight two-hit innings April 16 -- Tanaka allowed four runs, three earned, and eight hits in six innings. He struck out seven and walked one, raising his impressive season totals in those categories to 73 and eight.
Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Tanaka's splitter just wasn't as lethal as usual, but the pitcher said there was more to the loss than that.
"I don't think it's just the splitter," he said. "I think it goes for all of my pitches today. I don't think I was able to command my pitches the way I wanted."
As for facing a team a second time, no one with the Yankees (23-21) thought it was a factor.
"I don't look at it that way," said Tanaka (6-1, 2.39 ERA), who departed after six innings trailing 4-1. "I think all my balls, all my pitches, they went to locations which was easy for the batters to hit."
Said Rothschild: "I don't know it was an adjustment to him, he just didn't have the same stuff [as April], at least consistently."
The Cubs (16-27), not surprisingly, saw it a bit different, saying their goal was to be aggressive with anything that was up in the strike zone.
"You don't want to get in a hole with him and get behind and down in the count because you know that, we watched a lot of video and we see him striking out some of the best hitters in baseball and making people look foolish," said catcher John Baker, who had two hits. "A lot of us here already had that experience of swinging and laughing, looking in the dugout, like 'what the heck was that pitch?' I feel like the guy in 'Mr. Baseball,' someone needs to teach you how to hit the shuuto. But yeah, get the ball up, and we really executed."
Righthander Jason Hammel, among the few bright spots for the dreadful Cubs and a pitcher the rotation-starved Yankees will be interested in as the trade deadline approaches, was terrific. Hammel (5-2, 2.91) overcame getting stung by a Brett Gardner comebacker to start the game to allow one run, four hits and one walk with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
But as good as Hammel was, much of the talk in the home clubhouse had to do with vanquishing a pitcher who could not be vanquished.
"Me and Hammel were joking, I think Floyd Mayweather may lose now," Baker said. "We beat the Floyd Mayweather of baseball today. And hopefully, we can really spring forward from that."
With David Lennon