Tanaka off his game in second go at Astros

October 18th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Right-hander ’s postseason domination hit a bump in the road in the Yankees' 8-3 loss to the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.

Tanaka was cruising while trying to protect a 1-0 lead until the third inning, when Astros outfielder George Springer hit a three-run homer to give Houston the lead.

The home run came off a splitter, marking the second time Tanaka had allowed a home run on his trademark pitch since the start of July. Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk was the last person to hit a home run off his splitter, on Sept. 13.

“Just a splitter that got too much of the plate,” Tanaka said. “It was supposed to be lower, obviously, but it was up and the homer by Springer was on a splitter. It had too much of the plate.”

With a single swing, Tanaka had, for the first time, surrendered more than two runs in a postseason game. Entering the game, he had a 5-1 record with a 1.32 ERA in seven postseason starts, including a gem in Game 1 of this series when Tanaka dominated the Astros at Minute Maid Park, allowing just one hit in six innings as the Yanks cruised to a 7-0 victory.

“I think we hit mistakes. Pretty much he didn't make one in Houston,” Springer said. “He made a couple today and I think that was it. Just make sure that we hit a mistake and we'll see what happens.”

Astros manager AJ Hinch said he thought Tanaka changed his game plan and threw more fastballs than in Game 1.

“He's always in complete control of himself and of his pitches,” Hinch said. “Today, we had a little bit more disciplined approach. We made him stay on the plate, and then we hit a mistake or two and put pressure on him.”

Tanaka held the Astros in check the two innings after Springer’s homer, but he was lifted after Alex Bregman reached base on an error by first baseman in sixth. Right-hander Chad Green entered the game and retired Yuli Gurriel, but then allowed a single to Yordan Álvarez, followed by a three-run bomb by Carlos Correa to increase Houston's lead to 6-1.

Tanaka’s final line was four runs allowed (three earned) on four hits and two walks in five-plus innings, with just one strikeout. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Tanaka battled throughout the game.

“They made pretty good contact with [Tanaka]. He didn't have a lot of strikeouts,” Boone said. “The fact that he got as deep through their order as he did I think kind of speaks to his guile a little bit. I didn't really think he had his split tonight. But he made some pitches.

“They squared him up a handful of times right at some guys. So I thought he battled well and made some pitches when he had to, and obviously made the big mistake on the split that turned into more like a two-seamer, which it seemed like how his split was working a little bit tonight.”