NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka has faced many new tests in his first big league season, and he has passed nearly all of them with flying colors. But one remains unsolvable for now -- beating the Orioles.
Sunday afternoon on Old-Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium, Tanaka threw seven innings and allowed three runs, but his 15th consecutive quality start went for naught. The Yankees' offense remained dormant for the second straight game, and the Orioles escaped with a series win and their second straight victory -- this time, 8-0 -- against Tanaka.
"I truly believe that every day you have got to learn something new," said Tanaka, whose two losses have come against teams seeing him for the second time in the Cubs and Orioles. "I intend [to keep] on doing that, becoming a better pitcher in the future."
It was a tight game until the seventh inning, and it seemed as though Tanaka's early blemish, a home run to Jonathan Schoop -- his second career homer off Tanaka, who has allowed homers in four straight starts -- in the second inning, would be the only scar on his line. After laboring early, throwing 60 pitches in the first three innings, Tanaka found his rhythm, using just 33 pitches to escape the next three frames.
But trailing, 1-0, the Yankees pushed Tanaka into the seventh inning without having anyone warming up in the bullpen, trusting their ace for another scoreless three outs. The Orioles had other plans.
After J.J. Hardy singled and Manny Machado doubled to lead off the inning, Schoop and Caleb Joseph quickly plated them home, grounding out and flying out, respectively, to tack on two runs of insurance. The Orioles then broke the game open in the eighth.
"I started out with giving up the home run, and after that I felt that I battled pretty well," said Tanaka. "But at the end I gave up two more runs, which cost us the game. And I feel that I kind of let the game go there."
Adam Warren relieved Tanaka, but he quickly surrendered a bases-loaded double to Hardy that scored three. Machado followed with a bloop single to extend the lead to seven, and in the ninth, Joseph hit his first career home run to cap the scoring.
"He's not going to be perfect," manager Joe Girardi said of Tanaka.
Unlike his first loss to the Cubs, Tanaka's inefficiencies weren't Sunday's main culprit; it was his offense's inability to produce. The shutout loss wasn't an anomaly as much as it was a microcosm of the entire series.
Besides an heroic ninth inning Friday night that saw four runs cross home plate, the Yankees' hitting attack over the weekend was mostly fruitless. They scored in just three innings during the three-game series, going 4-for-26 with runners in scoring position.
"We definitely have more in us," said Mark Teixeira, whose X-rays came back negative after getting hit by a pitch in the foot during the eighth inning. "I think we expect more out of each other and I think we can score more runs. There's a lot of time left, but we do need to pick it up."
Sunday's starter, Chris Tillman, was responsible for silencing the Yankees' bats. He kept pace and eventually outdueled his Japanese counterpart on the mound, throwing seven shutout innings, scattering four hits and four walks over 114 pitches. He also caught a few breaks.
Tillman avoided trouble in the first when Brett Gardner slashed a ball into the right-field corner and hustled for three. Machado received the throw from right field and held his tag down as Gardner flopped over his square target, but third-base umpire Tom Hallion ruled Gardner safe. The Orioles challenged and the call was eventually overturned, denying a Yankees leadoff triple.
"I could've stayed on the base," said Gardner. "At this point, you're talking about inches, really. It's unfortunate, but I wish things had turned out differently."
In the fourth inning, Tillman escaped a leadoff double from Jacoby Ellsbury by getting Teixeira to ground out and Brian McCann to pop out with Ellsbury at third. After walking Carlos Beltran, Tillman snagged a Kelly Johnson line drive just above his waist, saving what would have been the tying run from scoring.
"You look at it and you had a 4-2 homestand against division rivals," said Girardi. "Big picture, that's good. Disappointing because we were 4-0 and had a chance to have a great homestand, but we still had a good homestand. We go back to Toronto, a team that we're chasing, and [we've] got to play well."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter had a narrower perspective of his team's second victory over the Yankees in a game Tanaka started.
"[Tanaka] wasn't carrying the same things that he's usually armed with," he said. "We were fortunate not to catch a real good pitcher at the top of his game."
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.