NEW YORK — Masahiro Tanaka was having trouble locating his pitches. The Detroit Tigers sent every mistake soaring.
Tanaka allowed three homers for the first time in his major league career, including two of J.D. Martinez’s trio of long balls, in the Tigers’ 12-4 victory over the New York Yankees on June 21.
“It actually all comes down to the pitch form or the pitching mechanics,” Tanaka said through a translator. “I think I need to tweak just a little bit to get myself right back for my next outing.”
After getting two easy outs to start the game, things quickly unraveled for the Japanese star. He gave up a hit to Miguel Cabrera before Victor Martinez sent a two-run shot into the second deck in right field.
Yoenis Cespedes reached on shortstop Didi Gregorius’ ninth error of the season and J.D. Martinez followed with his first home run of the game.
Tanaka (4-3) had not walked a batter in his previous four starts, but he put Cabrera aboard with a free pass with two outs in the second. Victor Martinez then singled in two more two-out runs for a 6-0 lead.
A solo shot by J.D. Martinez and a single by Bryan Holaday, in the fifth, closed the book on Tanaka. In all, he yielded a career high-tying 10 hits and seven runs in five innings.
“He just didn’t have the control he’s had in the last couple of starts and it hurt him,” Manager Joe Girardi said. “He didn’t have it today and they made him pay.”
J.D. Martinez wasn’t done after Tanaka left. He went deep off Danny Burawa, who was making his big league debut, with two on in the sixth to give him six RBIs on the day. That gave the Tigers an 11-2 lead, quite a turnaround for Detroit after being outscored 21-5 in the first two games of the series.
With a chance to tie the major league record for homers in a game, J.D. Martinez flied out to right in the eighth.
“It was just one of those days where you take swings and you’re actually hitting the ball how you want to hit it,” J.D. Martinez said. “There’s not too many of those days, so you’ve just got to take advantage of them.”
It was the first multihomer game of his career and the first three-homer game for Detroit since Miguel Cabrera did it at Texas on May 19, 2013.
J.D. Martinez became the first Tigers player to connect three times against the Yankees since Charlie Maxwell in 1959.
Andrew Romine hit Jose De Paula’s first major league pitch for a solo shot in the sixth. De Paula and Burawa were optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after the game.
“If I am going to carve out a career in this league, that’s exactly what I have to do,” Burawa, who grew up nearby on Long Island and went to St. John’s University, said of facing the middle of Detroit’s order.
Stephen Drew had his third multihomer game this year for the Yankees, connecting in the seventh off Anibal Sanchez and ninth against Joakim Soria.
Sanchez (6-7) lost his scoreless streak at 21 2-3 innings when Brian McCann homered with one out in the second. But the Tigers’ right-hander was steady for seven innings to earn his third straight win.
He yielded seven hits and three runs in handing the Yankees only their second loss in 13 home games.
(HOWIE RUMBERG, AP Baseball Writer)