General manager Brian Cashman said the Yankees had looked at all angles — had even called in “CSI: The Bronx” — to try to figure out why Masahiro Tanaka is suddenly so hittable.
The men and women from the lab need to come back to Yankee Stadium. Tanaka’s struggles continued Tuesday night as he was pummeled for three home runs by the Red Sox in the Yankees’ 5-4 loss before a crowd of 41,516.
Tanaka (5-6) allowed five runs in five innings to boost his ERA to 6.55. He was so ineffective that manager Joe Girardi had seen enough after only 62 pitches from his Opening Day starter.
Tanaka has given up 17 home runs in 66 innings with 14 of them coming in his last 36 innings. Since shutting out the Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 27, Tanaka is 2-5 with an 8.50 ERA. That includes a start on May 26 against Oakland when Tanaka seemed to have turned the corner by allowing only one run and striking out 13 in 7 1⁄3 innings.
That start, however, turned out to be an aberration.
“I have been inconsistent,” Tanaka said through his translator. “Obviously, I’m trying to fix that. As for today, I think I made some good pitches and bad pitches in the game. The bad ones I think I missed were crucial mistakes and they went right down the middle.”
And right out of the park.
The game was tied at 1 when Boston, in its first visit to Yankee Stadium in the post-David Ortiz era, teed off on Tanaka in the fourth. Tanaka walked Xander Bogaerts before allowing a 434-foot home run to right to Mitch Moreland. Hanley Ramirez followed with a home run to left to make it 4-1.
Andrew Benintendi homered to right in the fifth to give the Red Sox a 5-1 lead. Tanaka gave up only five hits and one walk, but Girardi didn’t let his ace come out for the sixth.
“It’s something we’re trying to figure out,” Girardi said. “The sequence to Moreland, he threw him a good slider, then he threw one that just kind of spun. He threw a split to Hanley that didn’t do a whole lot. The home run to Benintendi was a cutter that kind of almost backed up. Again, it’s the same issues. Nothing’s really changed. It’s the inconsistency of the pitches.”
Tanaka has been pitching with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow since 2014. But the Yankees insist his struggles are not because of injury.
“There’s nothing that leads us to believe he’s hurt,” Girardi said. “There’s no signs.”
It was a frustrating night for the Yankees on offense, too, as they went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and had only one RBI, on Chris Carter’s fifth-inning home run. The other Yankees runs scored on an error, a double-play grounder, and a wild pitch on a strikeout.
Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz (6-3) allowed two runs (one earned), but he needed 123 pitches in five innings. With the Yankees trailing by two runs, closer Craig Kimbrel, in for a four-out save, struck out Didi Gregorius on a slider in the dirt that went for a wild pitch to score Matt Holliday and make it 5-4.
Any thought that pitching to three batters in the eighth had tired out Kimbrel for the ninth went by the wayside when he struck out Brett Gardner, Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge for his 17th save. The Red Sox moved to within a game of the first-place Yankees in the AL East.
Judge, who struck out in a seventh-inning at-bat in which righthander Joe Kelly hit 104-miles per hour on the stadium gun, said: “Those are fun at-bats. Those are the at-bats you want to have.”
Unfortunately for the Yankees, opposing hitters can say the same thing about at-bats against Tanaka.