CLEVELAND — At least for one day, Masahiro Tanaka managed to change the subject of his performance this season on regular rest compared to extra rest.
It didn’t come up, even though the Yankees righthander — pitching on regular rest, which has been somewhat of a problem for him — lasted only 4 2⁄3 innings in Sunday’s 11-7 victory over the Indians, a game in which he took the mound in the bottom of the fifth with an 11-1 lead and allowed six runs.
“I just felt off today,” Tanaka said through his translator. “I wasn’t really able to control myself and the way I was pitching.”
Though he didn’t delve into specifics, several times he referenced his mental state.
“Mentally, I couldn’t really sort of get myself together and get that mental control of myself on the mound,” said Tanaka, slated to open the second half Friday for the Yankees against the Red Sox at the Stadium. “I think that related to how the ball came out, how I was pitching.”
Was there a specific reason that contributed to mentally not being able to get it together?
“If I knew the reason, I’d fix that and go out there and do it,” he said. “But the bottom line is I have to go out there and control myself and shut them down, and I just wasn’t able to do that. So next time just try to go out there and be stronger.”
Tanaka said he wouldn’t use the 25-minute top of the fifth — when the Yankees scored six runs to make it 11-1 — as an excuse.
“I try to go out there and shut it down. Obviously, I wasn’t able to do that,” he said. “Mentally, that’s the inning that you go out there and you really try to shut the opponent down. Mentally, I feel I was there, but the bottom line is I just wasn’t able to get the job done.”
Tanaka, hurt by a two-out throwing error in the fifth inning by Didi Gregorius that allowed two runs to score and kept the inning alive for Tyler Naquin’s two-run homer, allowed seven runs (three earned) and 10 hits. He finished the first half at 6-2 with a 3.23 ERA.
One of the Yankees’ worst starters in the first half, righthander Nathan Eovaldi, ended up saving the day. He lost his spot in the rotation last week but pitched well in relief of Tanaka, allowing no runs and one hit in the final 4 1⁄3 innings to keep the score at 11-7 and pick up the victory.
Eovaldi (7-6, 5.18) has allowed no runs and one hit in 6 1⁄3 innings in his two relief outings, although he has walked five. Joe Girardi said he hasn’t made any decisions regarding when Eovaldi might return to the rotation, and Eovaldi said he hasn’t been given any information in that regard.
“It feels good coming in in that situation the way I did and being able to finish the game,” he said. “I felt like I was able to get a lot more outs today on my fastball than I have in the past. A lot of times they were hitting my fastball out, and today I was getting quick outs with my fastball. They haven’t told me anything different, so right now I’m just going to prepare as if I’m in the bullpen.”