HOUSTON -- With his fastball touching 94 mph and his splitter and slider keeping Astros hitters off-balance, Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka made it through 3 1/3 hitless innings Friday night against the highest-scoring offense in the big leagues in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping
HOUSTON -- With his fastball touching 94 mph and his splitter and slider keeping Astros hitters off-balance, Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka made it through 3 1/3 hitless innings Friday night against the highest-scoring offense in the big leagues in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World.
But Tanaka, who retired 10 batters in a row after a leadoff walk in the first inning, ran into some misfortune in the fourth after a one-out infield single from Jose Altuve that left the bat at a Statcast-projected 71 mph and had a hit probability of just 16 percent. Altuve promptly stole second and scored on a single to left from Carlos Correa before Yuli Gurriel brought home Correa with at two-out single.
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Those were the only runs Tanaka allowed in six innings, but it wasn't enough in a 2-1 loss to the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
"He did great -- it was just that one inning that got to him," said Yanks right fielder Aaron Judge. "Other than that, he was pounding the strike zone and mixing his pitches well. But they were able to scratch those two [runs] off and we weren't able to get any support for him."
Tanaka rewarded the Yankees for their faith in him on the road in the series opener despite a 6.48 ERA in 15 starts during the regular season away from Yankee Stadium. The right-hander was charged with the loss, but he gave New York a chance to win and it was the offense that scuffled against Houston ace Dallas Keuchel and closer Ken Giles. The Yanks didn't score until Greg Bird's homer with two outs in the ninth.
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"I thought Masahiro threw a really, really good game," Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner said. "Obviously, if you only give up a couple runs, you have a chance to win. We just came up short tonight."
Three of the four hits allowed by Tanaka came in that fateful fourth inning, but he was tough on himself after the game, noting that some hard-hit balls early in the game were caught, including lineouts from Altuve in the first (94.4 mph exit velocity) and Alex Bregman in the third (104.4 mph).
Tanaka also went to his slider more than his split-finger fastball, throwing it 31 times compared to 16 splitters. His slider generated three swings and misses, while the splitter got two strikeouts. The Astros were 0-for-7 against the splitter, but they went 2-for-7 on the slider, including Correa's go-ahead single in the fourth.
"I don't think the stuff was bad, but I think I had to execute pitches, especially when runners were on base," Tanaka said through a translator. "I wasn't able to do that, so I need to do a better job of that next time. I think the splitter was there. But it wasn't as good as the last outing."
Tanaka also took the blame for allowing Altuve to steal, but the AL MVP Award candidate got there at 30.4 feet per second on his steal on a 1-1 sinker, making it difficult for catcher Gary Sanchez to get him with an 84.9 mph throw to second.
With a 2-1 count, Correa looked for something offspeed and connected on a perfectly-placed liner that wasn't exactly crushed with an exit velocity of 84.8 mph. Gurriel provided the second run on a sinker that caught too much of the plate and left the bat at 104.1 mph after Correa moved to second on a groundout.
"Tanaka's stuff the first time around, I was like, 'OK, it's moving a lot,'" Correa said. "He was very sharp with his secondary pitches. We were trying to get him up. With a 2-1 count against me and a man on second, I figured he would throw something soft, and I was able to put it in play."
With the loss, the Yankees find themselves in a hole as they were after two losses to open the AL Division Series presented by Doosan against the Indians. They came back to win that series in five games. Tanaka said fully intends to take the mound again if there's a Game 5 at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.
"I'm very confident," Tanaka said. "I believe we'll come back. I'll prepare like I'll be pitching on a couple days' rest."
Rhett Bollinger has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, **Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter [@RhettBollinger](https://twitter.com/RhettBollinger)**.