Blue Jays stifled by Tanaka, fall to Yankees
Bats manage one run off NY ace; Hutchison struggles with pitch count
NEW YORK -- The Blue Jays were not sure how the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka would respond in his first start since being diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in early July. They did not know if they should expect the pitcher who was dominant in the first half, including a 2-0 record with 18 strikeouts and a 2.08 ERA against the Blue Jays, or a lesser version.
But Tanaka was solid in his return and Toronto turned in another lackluster offensive performance during Sunday's 5-2 defeat at Yankee Stadium.
"He knows how to pitch," Jose Reyes said. "It's been a little while for him, but he knows what he's doing on the mound. He knows when he needs to use his pitches. ... He looked very good today."
The Blue Jays were familiar with uncertainty when facing Tanaka; they were the team he made his first career Major League start against on April 4. He surrendered three runs (two earned) in seven innings that day while striking out eight for his first career victory. On Sunday, he held the Blue Jays to one run on five hits in 5 1/3 innings and struck out four to pick up another win.
Tanaka was on a pitch count of around 70-75 pitches, but the Blue Jays did not make him work much in the early going. The Blue Jays forced him into just one three-ball count, and he did not walk a batter.
"He looked like the same guy I saw earlier this season," Jose Bautista said.
This Blue Jays' lineup Sunday was not the same, and much less threatening, compared to that first start. Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie are out for the season, Colby Rasmus has not been productive and watched the game from the bench and Adam Lind did not start for the second consecutive game because of back troubles.
Without Lind especially, the Blue Jays are increasingly reliant on the top four hitters in their order for production. Their Nos. 5-9 hitters on Sunday were made up of mostly inexperienced players still trying to get comfortable at the plate. Those hitters went a combined 1-for-17, with one walk and six strikeouts.
"We've had a lot of chances to break things open," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "You're relying on two-out hits out of our big guys and we didn't always get those. That's kind of what we're leaning on right now."
Meanwhile, the Yankees forced Drew Hutchison to throw a lot of pitches early and chased him in the fifth inning, after Derek Jeter singled on Hutchison's 94th pitch. Two of the five hits Hutchison surrendered were solo home runs by Brian McCann in the first and Brett Gardner in the fifth.
"Just a little bit off, got into a lot of deep counts," Hutchison said. "My fastball command was a little off, which led to those deep counts, and I made a couple of mistakes."
Hutchison's short outing snapped a streak of 26 straight games of Blue Jays starters lasting at least six innings, the longest in the Majors since 2003.
Jeter doubled in the seventh inning to drive in Gardner and then scored on McCann's second homer of the day. Jeter recorded four multihit games during this four-game series, going 8-for-17 with three runs, two doubles, a home run and three RBIs.
"He steps up and does something good when you need it," Gibbons said. "Hasn't been the kind of year that he wanted, but in fairness to him, what do you expect? Still a pretty good year. He makes things happen for them when they need something to happen, and the game's going to miss him."
The loss capped a nightmare road trip for the Blue Jays, who started it clinging to life in the race for the second American League Wild Card spot. After going 1-6 against Baltimore and New York, those hopes have all but faded now, as the Blue Jays sit 6 1/2 games behind the Royals.
"Obviously, it's real disappointing," Hutchison said.