Home / Sports / Masahiro Tanaka can't start do-or-die playoff game for Yankees

Masahiro Tanaka can't start do-or-die playoff game for Yankees

TORONTO — The Yankees should opt out of starting $ 22 million enigma Masahiro Tanaka in any sort of do-or-die playoff game.

Because the inconsistent Tanaka simply can’t be trusted.

Tanaka allowed three more homers over 5.2 innings — adding to his now staggering season total of 35 — in the Bombers’ 8-1 blowout loss to the Blue Jays on Friday night at Rogers Centre.

They are now four games back of the Red Sox in the AL East with nine games remaining — so it seems likely they’ll be playing in the AL wild card game come Oct. 3.

Teoscar Hernandez (solo shot on a 1-2 splitter), Russell Martin (two-run shot on a 1-0 slider) and Ryan Goins (grand slam on an 0-2 slider for his first hit against the 28-year-old righty in 23 career at-bats) all took Tanaka deep, as he fell to 12-12 with an unsightly 4.94 ERA.

“Over the last couple years, the one question I seem to be asked the most is, ‘Is he healthy?’ Joe Girardi said of Tanaka, who is pitching with a partial tear of his UCL. “Well, yeah, I think he’s healthy. There’s been nothing that shows us he’s not healthy. He’s made every start for the most part, but for whatever reason he’s been inconsistent this year.”

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Masahiro Tanaka was a mess on Friday.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

At $ 22 million, Tanaka is supposed to be the team’s No. 1 starter. But he’s rarely been that in 2017, allowing seven or more earned runs in five outings. He’s also gone less than five innings in seven outings and allowed three or more homers in five outings.

Of course, he’s also had four outings with double-digit strikeouts.

Again, you never know what you’re going to get.

“It’s disappointing,” Tanaka said. “We’re here toward the end of the season, and I understand how important these games are. And you really want to go out there and perform. But just not being able to execute pitches and not being able to perform, it is very disappointing.”

Luis Severino, Sonny Gray and CC Sabathia all seem like better bets in October than Tanaka, who hasn’t been able to use his splitter and slider with any sort of consistency. Tanaka allowed just one earned run in 23.1 spring innings — and seemed primed for a huge season in his potential opt-out year. But that hasn’t been the case.

Luis Severino is a safer option for the Yankees.

Luis Severino is a safer option for the Yankees.

(Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

“There are days where (his off-speed stuff) is really, really good, and you can see how he gets through lineups fairly easily,” Girardi said. “And then there are days where it’s not as consistent, and he struggles.”

And so the Yankees may be on the hook for Tanaka at $ 67 million over the next three years if he opts in, hoping he can somehow be more serviceable going forward.

Asked how much he factors in Tanaka’s recent implosions against Texas and Toronto when formulating his postseason plans, Girardi responded: “You look at everything. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. We still haven’t clinched anything. We need to win games and we need to play well, and tonight we didn’t.”

Tanaka did himself no favors on this night. And he hasn’t done the Yankees many favors all year long — leading them to likely be in this do-or-die playoff game that he simply can’t be trusted to pitch in.

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