Righty: 'I don't think I was able to meet any expectations'
By Bryan Hoch
NEW YORK -- This was the assignment that Masahiro Tanaka craved, the type of atmosphere he excitedly envisioned while looking out the window of a charter jet from Japan in January 2014, about to stare into an ocean of flashbulbs, try on a Yankees jersey and flash a $155 million smile to the international media.
The Yanks believed that Tanaka's great track record and his fearless demeanor would translate well to important big league games, and they have certainly seen evidence through his first two years here -- dominant pre-injury, serviceable after. In evaluating his first postseason contest, however, Tanaka deserves an incomplete grade.
Tanaka worked just five innings, throwing 83 pitches, in the Yankees' season-ending 3-0 loss to the Astros in the American League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. He was outpitched by Dallas Keuchel, who once again handcuffed the Yanks, and Tanaka served up a pair of homers after surrendering 25 in the regular season.
"I don't think I was able to meet any expectations, obviously, for the fans and for myself," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I still feel that I have a lot more that I need to give. I'll try not to forget this bad moment that I'm having right now."
Tanaka permitted four hits and three walks in the effort, striking out three. Both homers he allowed led off an inning; Colby Rasmus got him for a tape-measure shot to right field in the second inning and Carlos Gomez cleared the left-field wall in the fourth inning.
"He just made some mistakes," manager Joe Girardi said. "He had a fastball he kind of pulled to Rasmus. He left a breaking ball up to Gomez. A lot of nights, you give up two runs in five innings, you've got a pretty good chance to win. But we just haven't been able to solve Keuchel this year."
That was the reasoning behind Girardi's quick hook, having fired up left-hander Justin Wilson as early as the fourth inning with runs at a premium. Wilson finally entered in the sixth, with Girardi unlikely to try Tanaka's luck against Rasmus, Evan Gattis (deep flyout in second inning) and Gomez.
"I thought he threw the ball well," catcher Brian McCann said. "You know, they capitalized on two pitches over the middle of the plate, and I thought he got better as the game went on."
It was an up-and-down for season for the 26-year-old Tanaka. The fears over his partially torn ulnar collateral ligament never led to Tommy John surgery, as many feared it would, though he did serve a stint on the disabled list with a right forearm strain.
More recently, the Yankees' concern was a strained right hamstring that interrupted Tanaka's month of September. It didn't appear to affect much on Tuesday, but his three walks did match a season high, and he finished 12-7 with a 3.54 ERA in 24 regular-season starts.
"I'll try to turn this into a positive for the future," Tanaka said.
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.