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Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka plans to build on strong finish to his last start

Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees pitches

Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees pitches in the third inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Friday, July 3, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

After getting hit hard early, Masahiro Tanaka's last outing hardly looked like a game he would want to build on.

Tanaka allowed a pair of runs in the first inning of his start last week against Tampa Bay, resembling the pitcher who had allowed 11 earned runs in his two previous starts.

He settled down, though, striking out five and allowing one run, four hits and no walks over the next five innings of a no-decision, looking more like the pitcher who had been dominant in late April and early June.

Tanaka, who is 4-3 with a 3.94 ERA in 591/3 innings this season, said he would like to build off this strong finish in his next start Thursday against Oakland.

"The key is to try to do what you did after the second inning on, try to replicate that, then I should be fine," Tanaka said through a translator.

"I thought he threw a pretty good game," manager Joe Girardi said of Tanaka's start last Friday. "The first inning he left two splitters up. They didn't really do much and those cost him. Then after that, he gave up the one run in five innings, and I thought he threw pretty good. [He was] much better."

"He just made some minor adjustments," Girardi added. "The stuff is there, he just had better location."

Tanaka said that he made minor mechanical adjustments after the first inning Friday, and that the plan was to throw more fastballs.

He threw the pitch a season-high 30 times against the Rays (31.3 percent of total pitches), marking the fourth time in his big-league career he threw the pitch more than 30 percent of the time in a game, according to the pitch tracking site

After allowing four runs in four innings in his season debut, Tanaka went 4-1 with a 1.83 ERA over his next six starts, averaging nine strikeouts, 1.1 walks and 5.9 hits allowed per nine innings.

He struggled in his next two appearances, allowing 11 earned runs, and 3.6 walks and 15.3 hits per nine.

Last season, Tanaka was 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, striking out 9.3 and walking 1.8 batters per nine innings, but missed all of August and most of September with a torn elbow ligament.

New York Sports