Coming off career game, Tanaka hit hard

Yankees ace takes 'unexpected' step backward, allows at least 7 runs for 3rd time

Coming off career game, Tanaka hit hard

BALTIMORE -- In the hallway of a near-silent visiting clubhouse, pitching coach Larry Rothschild sighed and swatted away the familiar queries about Masahiro Tanaka's physical status. Yes, the Yankees believe that their ace is healthy, but that still doesn't solve the biggest mystery in their rotation.

Coming off a promising outing last week, Tanaka took another step backward on Wednesday evening, surrendering seven runs and nine hits in a 10-4 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards. Tanaka has allowed seven or more runs three times this season after having never done it before in his Major League career.

"It's not what you wanted to see, but we'll just keep grinding and get through it," Rothschild said. "You saw what he's capable of last time. This time, it just was kind of unexpected. We'll just keep grinding away and try to get it straight."

The Yankees hoped that Tanaka had corrected his issues with a career-high 13 strikeouts against the Athletics, but he followed it with an effort that looked more like the two before it, when the right-hander surrendered 14 runs and 16 hits in 4 2/3 innings against the Astros and Rays.

"It's tough, but you've got to be resilient and keep on fighting," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I think I told you guys last time that this outing was going to be important as far as consistency goes. Obviously I wanted some results out there, but I couldn't get it."

Tanaka issued a terse, one-word response when asked if he has thought about the possibility of an injury, and manager Joe Girardi also rejected that suggestion.

Girardi on 10-4 loss to Orioles

"I know we've talked about that a lot, but how do you explain the shutout in Boston? How do you explain his last game?" Girardi said. "If a guy is injured, he's injured, and there's not going to be good starts. To me, it's just the inconsistency. He hasn't been consistent this year."

Rothschild and Girardi both said that Tanaka did not have a sharp slider against Baltimore, and catcher Austin Romine said that the righty was unable to dot his pitches on the corners of home plate.

"Usually with the movement on his pitches, even a not-so-good slider is above-average," Romine said. "I don't think that the movement is the issue, I think it's showing up in the middle of the plate. We couldn't get on the corner and work. It was kind of battling all night."

Tanaka worked a pair of scoreless frames before giving up four runs and five hits in a loud third. Adam Jones slugged a run-scoring double, Mark Trumbo scorched a two-run laser over Aaron Judge and Chris Davis mashed an RBI single, all of which were clocked by Statcast™ at over 105 mph.

"It wasn't just the slider that wasn't sharp tonight," Tanaka said. "As for the slider, I think it just wasn't coming out of the hand right. I do understand why it wasn't sharp, so I need to get back and work on that."

Jones launched a three-run homer in the fourth -- again, on a first pitch -- and Girardi left Tanaka out to save the bullpen. Rothschild noted that Tanaka seemed to be in bad counts all night, and that his strike percentage (60-of-103, 58.2 percent) could "determine that it just wasn't him."

"I think it's unusual for him, but I think every Major League career isn't a total upswing," Rothschild said. "You go through bumps in the road. This has been more than a little bump. It's a big bump, but we'll get through it."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.