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Masahiro Tanaka struggles as Yankees fall to Blue Jays on Opening Day

Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees

Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees looks on after giving up a third-inning two-run base hit against the Toronto Blue Jays during Opening Day at Yankee Stadium on Monday, April 6, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Joe Girardi didn't seem to like the question.

Before Monday's season opener, a reporter asked Girardi about Masahiro Tanaka's comments from two days earlier about pitching with slightly less velocity this season.

"Let's just wait and see what happens," Girardi said dismissively. "There's so much talk about it, but until guys get out there . . . [I'm] just going to watch and see what happens."

What happened wasn't pretty.

After two scoreless innings, Tanaka allowed five runs in the third in a 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays in front of a Yankee Stadium sellout crowd of 48,469 that might be taking the traditional axiom that follows an Opening Day loss -- "Still 161 to go . . . " -- as more threat than solace.

"It's one game," Girardi said afterward. "I won't make too much out of it."

The Yankees, featuring a roster filled with questions entering the season, didn't do much to alleviate their fans' concerns. They had only three hits and saw third baseman Chase Headley commit a key error during the Blue Jays' big third inning.

Tanaka allowed five runs, (four earned), all in the third, and five hits.

The righthander, who missed 2 1/2 months last season while rehabbing a slight tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, entered the afternoon on a pitch count of about 90 but was gone after four innings and 82 pitches, 50 of them strikes.

Tanaka, who pitching coach Larry Rothschild said is "still building arm strength" after being brought along slowly during spring training, struck out six and walked two.

"I was in bad counts, and obviously that's going to give the advantage to the batters," Tanaka said through his interpreter. He insisted, as did Girardi and Rothschild, that he is physically fine.

Blue Jays righthander Drew Hutchison was as sharp as Tanaka was erratic, allowing one run, three hits and two walks in six innings.

One of the hits was a line-drive single to right-center in the fifth by Alex Rodriguez, who heard loud cheers all afternoon, aside from some spotty booing during pregame introductions. A-Rod, suspended for the entire 2014 season for his Biogenesis involvement, went 1-for-2 with a walk. "I'm just grateful for the reception I got," he said. "I love our fans."

Hutchison did not allow a hit until Brian McCann's two-out single in the fourth. That put runners on first and third, but Headley grounded out.

Brett Gardner led off the sixth with a home run to make it 5-1, but Blue Jays rookie Devon Travis' solo shot off lefthander Chasen Shreve in the seventh made it 6-1.

The critical inning was the third. Kevin Pillar pulled a single down the third-base line past a diving Headley and Tanaka went to 3-and-0 to the No. 9 hitter, Travis, before walking him on five pitches. Reyes then laid down a bunt that a charging Headley fielded cleanly but threw wide of first. The ball skipped into foul ground for an error that sent Pillar home and Reyes to second.

"I just made a poor throw," Headley said.

On Tanaka's next pitch, former Yankees catcher Russell Martin lined a 93-mph fastball to right for a two-run single that made it 3-0.

After Bautista flied to left, Tanaka fell behind Encarnacion 2-and-1 before throwing a flat, belt-high fastball. It woundup deep in the seats in leftfield for a two-run homer that made it 5-0 and sucked any remaining excitement from the day right out of the stadium.

Derek Jeter's replacement, Didi Gregorius, had a couple of nice throws but committed a bad baserunning gaffe to end the eighth. With two outs, Gregorius on second, Carlos Beltran on first and Mark Teixeira at the plate, Gregorius was unsuccessful in his ill-advised attempt to steal third. "It was a bad mistake by me," said Gregorius, who went 0-for-2. "It won't ever happen again."

Still, of course, it is just one of 162 . . .

"This team does have a good feel to it," A-Rod said. "I've played on a lot of great teams and this feels like a team that has a lot of potential."


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