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Tanaka due for a loss as Cubs snap streak

5/21/2014

CHICAGO -- After his first regular-season loss in nearly two years, spanning a total of 42 starts, a consistently stoic Masahiro Tanaka stood surrounded by the media in a dank room in the bowels of Wrigley Field.

What stood out about Tanaka's post-loss media session is the trait he has led with since he arrived in the United States a little more than three months ago: His demeanor seemed unfazed.

He admitted disappointment but refused to take a reporter's olive branch and blame the rain, which basically lasted his entire start and made the mound a little soft.

After the New York Yankees' 6-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs, in which he gave up four runs (three earned) on eight hits in six innings, Tanaka pointed the finger at no one other than himself.

From the moment he stepped on the mound for pregame warmups through his 88th and final pitch, his pitches needed the Waze App to find the strike zone.

"They went to a location that was easy for [the Cubs]," said Tanaka, who was in trouble during four of his six innings.

Tanaka did lose Game 6 of the Japan Series last year, but he quickly washed that away by coming back the next day -- after 160 pitches -- to pick up the championship-clinching save. He will have to wait until Sunday across town against the Chicago White Sox to begin a new streak after suffering his first regular-season loss since August 2012.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed," Tanaka said. "I'm looking forward to my next start and making my adjustments and try to be my best the next time."

While Tanaka looked inward, his manager, as he's known to do at times, tried to dictate story angles. Joe Girardi was 1-for-2 as a sports editor.

On the idea that the Cubs were the first team this season to face Tanaka a second time, uncovering some secret recipe to spoil Tanaka's success, Girardi correctly said it wouldn't be right to go there.

"I wouldn't make too much of that," Girardi said. "If he has his good splitter tonight, I think he gives a much better performance. Since it is the first time he saw a team twice, and they scored four runs, people are probably going to make a big deal out of it."

Girardi, though, didn't buy that Tanaka was simply due for a loss. After 42 regular-season starts, a 34-0 record dating back to his time in Japan, Tanaka couldn't have the law of averages work in his favor forever.

"I don't know if I would put it that way," Girardi said. "Like I said, a lot of things have to go right to have such a long winning streak. Sometimes your offense is going to have to pick you up a little bit. We just didn't do it tonight. I don't think he would ever say he was due for a loss."

No, he wouldn't, but wins and losses are a team thing. In Tuesday's pregame, Girardi noted that to have such an "incredible" steak, a lot of games must go a starter's way to keep it alive.

For example, the Yankees' offense needs to score more than one run against Jason Hammel. Jacoby Ellsbury, the No. 3 hitter, put up another 0-for-4 and hasn't had an RBI in nearly three weeks. This all led to Tanaka needing to be great, and he was only OK.

"He didn't pitch that bad," Girardi said.

He did not, but he got no help. Even without three of their top starters, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda, the Yanks have actually been pitching well lately. Entering Tuesday, Yankees starters had a 2.84 ERA in their past 13 games.

Still, on Wednesday afternoon, they will try to avoid a two-game sweep, with Chase Whitley against Jeff Samardzija. With Vidal Nuno and David Phelps also in the starting rotation, Tanaka's importance has become even more magnified.

But even in defeat, he doesn't seemed like he will be fazed by it at all.

"I'm a little bit disappointed, because I think a lot of the fans were looking for me to keep on winning," Tanaka said. "Next time out, I'll try to get a win again."