New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka looks on from the...

New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka looks on from the dugout during a game against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium on Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Masahiro Tanaka's pitching career remains uneven. Some good starts, some average ones.

On Friday night in Atlanta, he might need a great one if his teammates continue to struggle at the plate. "Obviously, it's needless to say how important it is,'' he said through his interpreter. "[I] just basically have to try to go out there and to give the best to always give the chance for the team to win.''

Tanaka is 9-6 with a 3.61 ERA and has allowed 19 home runs in 1142/3 innings. He appears to be healthy and has started 14 times after missing six weeks with a forearm strain and wrist pain. "Body-wise it's fine,'' he said. "I feel pretty strong. As far as stamina-wise too, feeling good.''

He occasionally has gotten an extra day's rest but says that isn't a requirement. "I'm just looking at it, you know, if I need to go, obviously I'll go,'' he said. "It's up to the team or the manager, pitching coaches, to decide where I'm pitching, but I'm ready to go wherever I need to go.''

Tanaka clearly has not been the dominating pitcher who was 11-1 with a 1.99 ERA in his first 14 starts in 2014. "You're not going to have your best every single time you go out there, although you want to have that,'' he said. "So you have the ups and then you have the downs. So what you're basically trying to do is minimizing that up-and-down, so that's basically what I'm doing right now. I don't think the performance itself has diminished. Sometimes you don't necessarily get the results that equals to your performance.''

Homecoming for McCann

For Brian McCann, it was like a fairy tale. Before getting advice on plate discipline from Chipper Jones, McCann idolized the third baseman while growing up in Athens, Georgia. Before catching John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, he cheered them on from the Turner Field seats. "I got to play with some people that I looked up to, grew up watching," he said. "I loved my time there."

For McCann, who spent the first nine years of his career with Atlanta before signing with the Yankees for the 2014 season, coming back home means catching up with old friends and spending an off day with family while manning the grill.

"It's going to be exciting," he said.

He hit .277 with 176 homers as a Brave and credits his early success to Jones. "When I was 21," he said, "I came up with the bases loaded and two outs. Guy's best pitch was a split and he threw me three straight splits. I swung at all of them. [Jones] met me in the tunnel and said, 'What do you think he's going to throw you there?' He just slowed the game down for me. He taught me how to sit on counts. He's one of the smarter hitters you're ever going to come across."

Aside from adjusting to the American League,McCann said it wasn't especially difficult getting used to New York. "The way they make you feel here," he said, "you feel welcomed right away. For me, it wasn't a huge transition. I know on the field you could say it was, but I felt great here right away."

More Yankees headlines

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months