As it turns out, Masahiro Tanaka is human after all. The dominating right-hander finally took the first loss of his big league career after giving up a season-high four runs in six innings, as the Yankees fell to the Chicago Cubs, 6-1, on Tuesday night in the opener of a two-game series this week at Wrigley Field.
Facing the Cubs for the second time this season -- the first team he's seen for a second time in his career -- Tanaka didn't look very sharp, compared to what we're use to seeing, as he took his first loss as a starter in the regular season since August of 2012 -- that's a span of 639 days between losses.
Offensively, the Yankees didn't do very much against Cubs starter Jason Hammel, who could actually become a trade target for Brian Cashman as we get closer to the trade deadline, with the Yankees' rotation looking very thin right now. Hammel was hit on his right, non-glove, hand when Brett Gardner slapped the second pitch of the game back up the middle. Hammel stayed in the game, and held the Yankees to just one run on four hits over 5.2 innings.
The Yankees' first inning looked pretty promising, but nothing was able to come of it. After Gardner got on base to open the game, Derek Jeter bunted him over, then the Jacoby Ellsbury flew out before Mark Teixeira was hit. Gardner took third base on a wild pitch, but Brian McCann flew out to end the inning.
Tanaka worked around a Luis Valbuena double in the 2nd inning, but then the Cubs broke through in the 3rd, and scored again in the 4th with a couple of innings that probably could have been worse than they were.
John Baker singled to begin the 3rd, moved to second on a sac-bunt, to advanced to third base when a pitch in the dirt got past McCann. Baker then scored on a single by Emilio Bonifacio.
Mike Olt drove in the Cubs' second run of the game an inning later with a single to left field, scoring Valbuena, who, again, doubled to put himself in scoring position to open the frame. With a two-run deficit to overcome, the Yankees' needed to score a couple of runs to get Tanaka off the hook for a loss.
Too bad that didn't happen.
The only run that the Yankees were able to get across the plate was in the when Teixeira singled to right field, bringing home Gardner, who opened the inning with a double, cutting the Cubs' lead to 2-1.
However, the Cubs answered the Yankees' score with back-to-back sac-flies in the bottom half of the inning to push their lead to 4-1.
That inning would be all for Tanaka. Again, not a great night for the ace of the Yankees' pitching staff, having to deal with the rain, thunder and lightning going on all around him through most of his outing. He gave up eight hits, but also struck out seven with only one walk, which is always a good thing.
The bullpen's messy night began in the 7th when it took three different pitchers to finish off the inning. It began with Preston Claiborne, who gave up a triple to the first batter he faced, induced a groundout to the next walk, intentionally walked Anthony Rizzo, then gave up an RBI single to Starlin Castro to end his night.
Matt Thornton faced two batters. He got the first one out, then hit the next. He hasn't been very effective as the lefty specialist this season. The Matt Daley walked Olt with the bases loaded to force in a run, making it a 6-1 game.
Box score notes: Your daily Jeter update: the Captain went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles ... Gardner finished 2-for-4 with a triple and a two-out walk in the 9th to keep the Yankees' rally going ... Ellsbury is still struggling, going 0-for-4 tonight to drop his average to .269. He was hitting well over .300 just a couple weeks ago ... Yangervis Solarte was the other of the four Yankees to get a hit tonight. He's hitting .312 this season.
Up next: The final of this short two-game series will take place on Wednesday afternoon, with Chase Whitley getting the ball against the winless Jeff Samardjia at 2:20 pm ET.