ARLINGTON -- The Yankees believe that it is a legitimate option to stand pat as Friday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, reluctant to part with the best talent in their farm system. Masahiro Tanaka's discouraging effort Wednesday night offered another reminder that their rotation could use a pick me up.
Tanaka's command was erratic, particularly with his trademark splitter, as he permitted four runs and nine hits to the Rangers over six rough innings. The right-hander kept his team in the game, a 5-2 loss, but they are accustomed to counting on more than that.
"It's not just the splitter; it goes for pretty much all the pitches that I was throwing today," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I just didn't have command of it. I just kept on missing my spots and that was the bad part of today's outing."
Tanaka could tell from the beginning that he was going to have to work hard in this one, issuing a leadoff walk to Delino DeShields and then picking the runner off first. The Rangers cashed a trio of run-scoring hits in the second inning on singles by Josh Hamilton, Shin-Soo Choo and DeShields and never looked back.
"There were guys on base all night," catcher Brian McCann said. "There were a lot of stressful pitches. When you get to that point, you try to navigate through a lineup and keep the damage to a minimum. You tip your cap to them, they did a good job, we just didn't have our best tonight. Me neither."
Pitching from behind in the count repeatedly, the outing snapped Tanaka's three-start winning streak. With three walks and three strikeouts, he completed a solid enough month of July in which he was 3-1 with a 3.67 ERA in five starts.
"I didn't think he had a real good split tonight, for whatever reason," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You look at the second inning when he gave up most of the runs -- a leadoff hit, a walk probably hurt him, and then he gave up some hits after that. I just didn't think his split was sharp."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said that, if healthy, he is confident in lining up Tanaka and Michael Pineda to anchor a short series. Health, of course, is the great unknown. Tanaka has already served one stint on the disabled list this year and the Yanks are periodically altering their rotation as a precaution to avoid another.
However, on a night when the Rangers were wrapping up a deal to pull Cole Hamels off the board and the Tigers sent smoke signals that David Price could soon be switching uniforms, Tanaka's effort could spur the Yankees to kick their pursuit of another arm into high gear.
"He's had some really good games and he's had some tough games," Girardi said. "He kept us in the game tonight, we just didn't do a lot offensively. That's what we ask our starting pitchers to do, give us a chance to win, and I thought he did that tonight. We know he's capable of pitching better."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.