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Yankees lose as interim closer Kelley flops in ninth

Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild speaks with pitcher

Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild speaks with pitcher Shawn Kelley as players gather on the mound against the Baltimore Orioles in an MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

On a night in which Masahiro Tanaka made a positive first impression in the Bronx, the Yankees didn't have any time to enjoy the promise of their $175-million investment.

Instead, they were given a reminder of a more pressing concern: replacing the guy who replaced Mariano Rivera.

Interim closer Shawn Kelley, pitching in place of the injured David Robertson, entered a tie game in the ninth and faltered, giving up two runs, and the Yankees couldn't recover en route to a 5-4 loss to the Orioles.

"Like I said the other day, we're a better team with David back there,'' Kelley said. "He's our back end of the bullpen guy. But we've still got to go out there and get outs.''

Wednesday night's loss dropped the Yankees to 4-5 and ruined a positive home debut by Tanaka. He allowed three runs in seven innings and struck out 10. But Tanaka needed to be better than that on this night to ensure a win, considering that very little good happened after he left with the score tied at 3.

It started in the eighth, when the Yankees wasted a leadoff double by Brett Gardner, failing to push across the go-ahead run.

Joe Girardi said he called for Derek Jeter to sacrifice him to third, thinking the speedy Gardner could score on a sacrifice fly or a wild pitch. But Jacoby Ellsbury popped out and, after Carlos Beltran (3-for-3, home run) was walked intentionally, Brian McCann was retired on a fly ball to centerfield.

"We were one hit away from winning a ballgame,'' Beltran said. "It just didn't happen.''

Kelley gave up four straight hits (all on sliders) to start the ninth, three of them with two strikes. Nick Markakis drove in the go-ahead run with a bloop single to right-center, and Chris Davis' sacrifice fly made it 5-3.

"If I get my pitches down a little more,'' Kelley said, "there might be some different results.''

The Yankees threatened in the ninth, putting runners on the corners with no outs. Brian Roberts' sacrifice fly made it 5-4, but with the potential tying run on first, closer Tommy Hunter got Yangervis Solarte to ground into a game-ending, 6-4-3 double play.

It was not the ending the Yankees envisioned at the start of the day, when there was intrigue in the clubhouse over Tanaka's home debut. He didn't disappoint, showing off the swing-and-miss arsenal that convinced the Yankees to make such a significant investment in him.

Of his 101 pitches, he induced 22 swings and misses. (Texas' Yu Darvish led the majors last year by doing that on 12.6 percent of his pitches.)

Tanaka's big mistake came in the second with runners on the corners, two outs and No. 9 hitter Jonathan Schoop at the plate. Tanaka hung a 1-and-0 slider, and Schoop took advantage.

He launched a towering fly ball down the leftfield line, and it had the look and sound of a no-doubt home run off the bat. The only question while Tanaka followed the flight of the ball was whether it would stay fair, and much to his dismay, it did, by only a few feet.

"I think I was able to battle, but with two runners on and a home run to the ninth hitter, that's something I can't do,'' he said through an interpreter.

But Baltimore's 3-0 lead didn't stand for long. The Yankees answered in the bottom of the inning with solo homers by Beltran and Kelly Johnson off Miguel Gonzalez. They tied it in the fourth when Beltran led off with a double, went to third on McCann's flyout and scored on Alfonso Soriano's groundout.

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