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Masahiro Tanaka doesn’t blame rain delay for slow start

Masahiro Tanaka  of the Yankees allowed only one

Masahiro Tanaka  of the Yankees allowed only one earned run in a loss to the Tigers at Yankee Stadium on  Aug. 2, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

On a day (and night) when everything seemed to go wrong for the Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka was not excusing his one bad inning on the main topic surrounding Wednesday’s game: the weather.

In a sport consumed with superstition and regimented behavior, pitchers are perhaps the most closely identified creatures of habit. Tanaka was prepared for a 1:05 p.m start. Instead, there was a one-hour, 26-minute rain delay.

Tanaka, who struck out 14 in his last start, seemed to be off his game against the Tigers when it finally started. Leadoff man Ian Kinsler singled to left and went to second on Jim Adduci’s single up the middle. Justin Upton made it three straight hits when he doubled to left, scoring Kinsler.

Tanaka quickly settled down, striking out Miguel Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos and getting Victor Martinez on a fly ball to center. The damage was minimized, Tanaka went on to pitch six innings and struck out seven, but the Yankees were shut out, 2-0.

Tanaka (8-10, 4.93) allowed an unearned run in the fourth, though it was made possible by a two-out walk to Mikie Mahtook. That snapped his streak of batters faced without a walk at 105. Mahtook came all the way around to score when James McCann singled to center and the ball got past Jacoby Ellsbury. Joe Girardi was asked if it skipped and said, “It looked like it a little bit, yeah.’’

Being taken out of his routine could have been the explanation for the first inning, but Tanaka did not take that route.

“It’s part of baseball,’’ he said. “It’s not something that you can really control. So, no, it doesn’t really throw me off.’’

Girardi said, “I don’t know if I’d call one run struggling . . . Another good performance.’’

Tanaka is 3-3 with a 2.89 ERA in his last eight starts.

Recently acquired Yankees starter Jaime Garcia said veteran pitchers try to be prepared for last-minute changes or situations beyond their control.

“I’ve had three starts where that has happened,’’ Garcia said of a rain delay. “One was two hours, one 45 minutes, another like 30. If you’re very routined and young it could (unnerve) you.

“If it’s out of your control, you adapt. The weather, it’s too hot, the rain, the umpire’s bad, you’re sick, it’s all on the same level. For me, it’s all in the same group. Tanaka’s been around a long time. He seemed focused. I’m sure for guys like him, it’s a little easier to say, ‘This is what I got, go out there and compete.’ ’’

Garcia said Tanaka’s start “is a lot to build on. Obviously, you don’t want to lose the game, but as a starting pitcher that’s a big step. The way the first three guys get on and how they got on, what he was able to do after that, he’s taken a lot from that. The only thing you can control is the next pitch, and he did it today.’’

New York Sports