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Masahiro Tanaka not as sharp as recent outings

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka looks

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka looks on from the dugout after he was taken out during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in a baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Tanaka Time didn't last quite as long this outing.

Coming off a complete game in his best start of the season, Masahiro Tanaka wasn't nearly as effective Friday night. In what he called one of the most important games he has pitched as a Yankee last Saturday, Tanaka allowed one run and struck out eight in a crucial win over the Blue Jays.

But Friday against the Indians, he labored through six innings, allowing three earned runs and seven hits as the Yankees fell, 7-3.

"Obviously, you don't always have the same stuff," Tanaka said through a translator. "So the stuff I had when I pitched in Toronto, I just didn't have it today."

It seemed that he did at first, as he cruised through an eight-pitch first inning. His pitch count -- 107 pitches, 67 for strikes -- began to elevate in the fifth inning as he failed to display the command he had in his previous start. He walked Jose Ramirez, the No. 9 hitter, to put two runners on with one out, then got Jason Kipnis to ground into a force at second, putting runners on first and third with two outs. It appeared that Tanaka would escape when he induced Francisco Lindor's slow chopper over the mound. Shortstop Brendan Ryan charged in to make what should have been an easy play, but lost control of the ball while transferring it from his glove. Abraham Almonte scored on the play, giving the Indians a 2-1 lead.

"Went into my glove and it wasn't there," Ryan said. "Didn't really want to look at it [on video replay]. I was too upset. Not really sure what to say. Probably the easiest play you could possibly have. Cost us a run. But it happens."

Tanaka, who fell to 9-6 with a 3.61 ERA, wouldn't fault the defense.

"Errors are obviously part of the game," Tanaka said. "They've been playing great defense all throughout the season. Plus, if I had been throwing the ball better, that maybe would not have happened."

After falling behind Carlos Santana 3-and-0 in the count to lead off the sixth, Tanaka battled back to force a full count. Santana then deposited a line drive home run, on Tanaka's third straight four-seam fastball, into the seats in rightfield. Tanaka completed the inning, and came back out for the seventh. He allowed a leadoff single to Ramirez and was removed by Joe Girardi.

"I just didn't think that his off-speed was sharp tonight," Girardi said. "Didn't locate it as well as he's done recently, which led to some troubles."

For Tanaka, the difference between his last two outings was simply getting ahead of hitters.

"I think it was pretty obvious but innings where I was able to go strike one, strike two, I think I was in a better tempo, good rhythm, getting quick outs," he said. "When I was going ball one, ball two, runners got on base and that led to them scoring. Obviously, I was sort of out of rhythm in those innings."

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