LAKELAND, Fla. — Masahiro Tanaka wasn’t upset about being passed over for Luis Severino as the Yankees’ Opening Day starter.
Tanaka, who started the last three Yankees openers, was more concerned about a promising-looking outing that got away from him on Saturday.
After striking out five of the first seven Tigers, Tanaka could not get out of the third inning. He was charged with four runs in 2 2⁄3 innings in the Yankees’ 9-3 loss at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Tanaka, who has an 11.25 ERA after three outings, gave up two home runs and threw a pair of wild pitches. He allowed four hits, walked one and struck out six.
If not for a pair of diving plays on hard-hit balls by second baseman Tyler Wade and third baseman Brandon Drury, the third inning would have even been worse for Tanaka, whom manager Aaron Boone selected to start the Yankees’ second game of the season in Toronto.
As for Severino, Tanaka said: “I thought it was well-deserved [with] how he pitched last season. He is the guy who should start the very first game of the season. Also, it was good to know exactly when I’m pitching when the season starts so that I can sort of schedule myself accordingly.”
Tanaka struck out the side in the first inning but also allowed an opposite-field home run by Miguel Cabrera (no shame there).
Tanaka struck out two in a perfect second inning before it all fell apart in the third.
Niko Goodrum opened with a hard grounder to Wade’s left. The rookie dived and threw to Tanaka to get the out.
Alexi Amarista tripled and Leonys Martin smacked a two-run, opposite-field homer to leftfield to give Detroit a 3-2 lead. The homer seemed wind-aided, but it was the fourth one Tanaka has given up in eight innings. He allowed 35 home runs in 178 1⁄3 innings during the regular season in 2017.
Tanaka then struck out Jeimer Candelario on a nasty pitch in the dirt. It was so nasty, however, that it bounced past catcher Erik Kratz. Candelario reached on the wild pitch.
Cabrera lined out to third, with Drury making a diving grab for the second out. “You see [them] make those kinds of plays, you want to go out there and do your job,” Tanaka said. “I’ve got to get better than what I did today.”
After another wild pitch, Tanaka walked Nicholas Castellanos and gave up an RBI single to Victor Martinez to make it 4-2. He was removed after 66 pitches, 42 for strikes.
One possible silver lining? Tanaka was nearly unhittable during 2017 spring training, pitching to a 0.38 ERA. It turned out to mean little once the season began. He got clocked in the season opener, allowing seven runs in 2 2⁄3 innings in a 7-3 loss to Tampa Bay.
Tanaka had his worst season as a Yankee, going 13-12 with a 4.78 ERA before returning to form with a 0.90 ERA in three postseason starts.
“I feel like I’m sort of getting a better preparation going into the season this year versus last year,” Tanaka said. “Obviously, the results aren’t there [this year].”