Perhaps the Masahiro Tanaka crisis is over.
The right-hander delivered a second straight strong performance in the Yankees’ 3-2 win over the Indians on Friday night in The Bronx.
The victory not only put Thursday’s blowout loss to Cleveland behind them, but it also provided more distance from Tanaka’s struggles that plagued him early in the second half, when he saw his ERA jump from 3.21 to 4.93 in just seven starts.
On Friday, he stared down a tough Indians lineup that had scored six or more runs in all but one of their previous five games.
Tanaka allowed a second-inning homer to red-hot Jose Ramirez and then an opposite-field blast to Yasiel Puig in the sixth.
Between the two shots, Tanaka retired 15 of 16 batters, as his rediscovered splitter was effective again after he altered his grip on the pitch.
“It’s all about the feel when I throw the pitch and right now it feels pretty good,’’ Tanaka said through an interpreter after he gave up two runs in 6 ¹/₃ innings.
That came after Tanaka threw eight scoreless innings in Toronto in his previous start.
He ended on somewhat of a sour note, as Ramirez followed up Puig’s one-out homer with a double that forced Aaron Boone to go to the bullpen, but Tommy Kahnle entered and struck out Jason Kipnis and Franmil Reyes to preserve a one-run lead.
Afterward, though, Tanaka’s teammates pointed to the importance of his outing, especially after the Yankees gave up 19 runs in the series opener Thursday.
“The whole day started with Masa controlling the zone and getting ahead of a really good lineup,’’ said Brett Gardner, whose eighth-inning running grab of Francisco Lindor’s fly ball to the track in right-center was also key.
Aaron Judge also noted the importance of keeping Cleveland off the scoreboard in the first inning after they scored seven runs in the opening frame Thursday.
“Masa set the tone with that shutdown first inning,’’ Judge said. “He kept a potent lineup off-balance. When Masa’s on and can work all his pitches in the zone, he’s dangerous.”
That’s the version of Tanaka the Yankees need down the stretch, as their rotation looks for depth because of the continued inconsistency of J.A. Happ and James Paxton — as well as CC Sabathia, who is slated to make his return from the injured list Sunday.
Tanaka’s lone disappointment came from his inability to get through the seventh, as he quickly had trouble the third time through the lineup. But considering where he was not long ago, the Yankees will no doubt take that problem.