Tanaka sharp, but admits fatigue as Yanks fall
Masahiro Tanaka had his slider and sinker dancing over five scoreless innings, seemingly on cruise control against a Braves lineup that had thumped Gerrit Cole in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader. Only the right-hander’s unvarnished honesty could end his evening early.
Tanaka said that he told manager Aaron Boone that his energy had been sapped by 66 pitches, which prompted a pitching change prior to the sixth inning. Chad Green surrendered a two-run homer to Freddie Freeman as the Yankees absorbed a 2-1 loss that completed a twin bill sweep at Truist Park.
“He asked me how I was feeling, and I told him that the tank was starting to empty a little bit,” Tanaka said through a translator. “Basically, I told him, ‘I'm good with what whatever you decide.’”
In addition to potentially losing Aaron Judge to a recurrence of his right calf strain, the Yanks have now lost five straight games, taking a 5-1 loss in Game 1 as Gerrit Cole was dealt his first regular season defeat since last May 22. Ronald Acuña Jr., Dansby Swanson and Marcell Ozuna homered off Cole, who had gone 20-0 with a 1.97 ERA over a 28-start span leading into Wednesday.
“We don't like it. We’ve got to play a little better,” Boone said. “We have a tough stretch of games coming up, with a lot of those games at home. We’ve got to go home and start playing a little bit better.”
The Yankees have been deliberate in building Tanaka’s stamina following a July 4 concussion that delayed his season debut. Though Wednesday marked Tanaka's fifth turn in the rotation, he has yet to throw more than 71 pitches in a start this season, which he did in his last outing on Aug. 18 against the Rays.
Boone said that the Yankees were prepared to allow Tanaka to reach the mid-80s, but the hurler’s self-assessment changed that plan. Boone said that he does not believe there is an injury issue with Tanaka, suggesting that the humid weather may have played a part.
“It kind of depends on the game,” Tanaka said. “Sometimes you're going really intense in a game and so it's not just a number [of pitches], but it depends on how your intensity level is in the game.”
Tanaka limited Atlanta to three hits, generating a season-high 11 swings and misses in the effort; eight on his slider. Green recorded the first two outs of the sixth, but Swanson singled and Freeman slugged an opposite-field homer to give Atlanta the lead.
“With Gerrit and Masa, we thought we had a pretty good chance to win two games,” Green said. “Unfortunately, that didn't happen. I spoiled Masa’s start. He threw the ball really well.”
Making his Major League debut, rookie right-hander Ian Anderson held the Yankees hitless in Wednesday’s first game until Luke Voit’s sixth-inning solo homer. Left-hander Max Fried also held the Yanks to a single run over six innings in the nightcap, coming on Tyler Wade’s fifth-inning sacrifice fly.
“You have to give credit to Anderson and Fried; they did a good job executing their pitches,” said Erik Kratz, who doubled to set up Wade’s sac fly. “They did a great job of not giving us too many free passes. We’ve got to do a better job of stringing together a few hits here and there.”
Not Green’s day
On the pitch to Freeman, Green said that he was trying to spot a fastball down and away, but it caught too much of the plate.
“With a hitter like that, and a situation like that, you just can’t make that pitch,” Green said. “The park plays pretty big over there, but I knew he hit it pretty well.”
Green has been one of the Yankees’ most effective relievers through the season’s first month, carrying an 0.71 ERA into Wednesday’s appearance, but he also had not pitched in 10 days. Green’s most recent outing was on Aug. 16 against the Red Sox.
“There’s stuff we try to do in between to stay sharp, but nothing simulates getting out there and facing hitters on another team,” Green said. “I felt like I was ready to go and I felt like I stayed pretty sharp between outings. I really didn’t think that played too much of a role.”