BALTIMORE — Like many other pitchers around the majors, Masahiro Tanaka has had his share of difficulties with the new baseballs MLB turned loose on the sport this season.
So much so that he changed the grip on one of his bread-and-butter pitches, the splitter, before last Wednesday’s start.
Reviews from the Yankees were mostly good after that game against Arizona, though the results were ho-hum — two runs, five hits, three walks and four strikeouts in four innings.
On Monday night against the decidedly subpar Orioles, though, there wasn’t any ambiguity: Tanaka wasn’t very good.
He was unable to hold a five-run lead, was charged with five runs in 5 1⁄3 innings and allowed 10 hits (eight for extra bases), but the Yankees still earned their sixth straight win, 9-6.
The Yankees (a season-high 34 games over .500 at 73-39 and nine games ahead of the second-place Rays) hit five home runs to enter the record books. Mike Tauchman had two and Mike Ford, Austin Romine and Brett Gardner each hit one, giving the Yankees 32 in eight games at Camden Yards. That’s the most homers hit in a single season by a visiting team in any stadium, breaking the mark of 29 set by the Milwaukee Braves at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field in 1957.
Three of the homers helped the Yankees take a 6-1 lead, but Tommy Kahnle allowed a two-run shot by Jonathan Villar (who hit for the cycle) with two outs in the sixth that tied it at 6-6. Ford hit a solo homer in the eighth and Tauchman added a two-out, two-run shot, his second opposite-field homer of the game.
Lefthander Paul Fry was brought in to face the lefthanded-hitting Ford with one out in the eighth, and it didn’t work out too well for the Orioles. “Kind of stuck to my plan,” Ford said. “Was waiting on one pitch and I got it.”
Tauchman went 3-for-4 and has 16 hits in his last 39 at-bats to raise his average to .294 and OPS to .909. “Having an opportunity to get in the lineup and contribute to wins, honestly, that’s all I think a ballplayer wants is just to try to contribute to that team’s win that day,’’ he said. “It’s been going well.”
Not for Tanaka. “Having good offense and you not doing your job well enough kind of makes it even more frustrating,” he said through his translator.
He felt better about his control of the splitter, but obviously not with the results. “It’s been really frustrating,” he said. “These recent games, I’ve been giving up runs like that in one inning. I really need to turn that around.”
They Yankees, who are 11-2 against Baltimore, have produced 41 homers, 19 doubles, 60 walks and 95 runs against the Orioles. They entered the game with a .294/.384/.592 slash line against them this year.
Gardner and Tauchman hit opposite-field homers in the sixth to put the Yankees up 6-1, part of a superb performance from hitters 6-9 — including Breyvic Valera, whose two-run triple in the fifth snapped a 1-1 tie. Those four hitters went 8-for-16 with four homers, a triple and seven RBIs.
“That’s been a theme for us all year: It can come from a lot of different places,” Aaron Boone said. “And the bottom of the order is a place where we’ve gotten really good production and a place that we feel really confident in our guys.”