Masahiro Tanaka tried to bunt a runner to second in the second inning Friday night at Citi Field. The Mets were able to grab a forceout while Tanaka felt something grab in his right hamstring running out of the batter's box -- a double play of misfortune.
He threw another five innings and allowed two runs in the Yankees' 5-1 loss. But they will not have their ace for an important start Wednesday night in the finale of the three-game series at Toronto. The Yankees were three games back of the first-place Blue Jays heading into Sunday night's series finale against the Mets.
"I just feel very unfortunate,'' Tanaka said via an interpreter.
Joe Girardi announced Sunday that Tanaka has a Grade 1 strain. Ivan Nova was banished to the bullpen Wednesday for ineffectiveness, but he will get a reprieve and take the Toronto start instead. Girardi's hope is that Tanaka will miss only one outing.
"I'm not looking at it as something very serious,'' Tanaka said. "The reason I say that is because I injured it earlier in the game, but I felt strong enough to be able to pitch after sort of straining it.''
Tanaka took the loss, but he's still a strong 12-7 with a 3.38 ERA in 23 starts. He spent time on the DL from April 29-June 3 with tendinitis in his right wrist and a strain in his right forearm. Of course, that partial ligament tear in his right elbow also has been lurking in the background. That cost him 65 games last season but no time this season.
And now this. He underwent an MRI Saturday. Girardi knew about the injury Friday after Tanaka returned to the dugout.
"It took him a little while to get out there [for] the bottom of the second,'' Girardi said. "We wanted to make sure he was OK. He said, 'It's just tight. I feel fine.' We watched his warmups carefully, and he kind of signaled to us that he was OK. After going through that, you kind of felt, 'Maybe it's not much. Maybe it's just something tight.' And he pitched well.
"But our fear is if he goes out there on Wednesday, he could hurt it worse, and then you're in a whole lot of trouble.''
Tanaka will undergo treatment instead of accompanying the team to Toronto. He said it's getting better.
"I did tell them I wanted to pitch on Wednesday,'' he said. "But at the same time, I understand the decision. The season is not over. We don't know when, but I'll probably be able to pitch again after the Toronto series.''
The rule that AL pitchers have to hit in NL parks came with a price tag this time.
"So it's frustrating,'' Girardi said. "We have to deal with it. Nova's going to have step up for us on Wednesday, and hopefully [Tanaka] will just miss the one turn.''
Nova has a 6-8 record and a 5.11 ERA in 14 starts after returning from Tommy John surgery. His ERA is 7.46 in the last seven.
"It's an important game for us, like always,'' Nova said. "But I'll have a chance to study the hitters again and try to get a win for the team.''