NEW YORK -- Prior to his start Sunday, as Masahiro Tanaka prepared in the New York Yankees' clubhouse, he took a moment or two to glance up at the Old-Timers' Day festivities on the TVs. Maybe a couple of decades from now, he could be playing in one of those games.
"I think the important thing is that I'll try to become a very good player so I'll be invited on such occasions," Tanaka said.
Tanaka, 25, is well on his way as a rookie, even after his second loss, an 8-0 defeat to the Baltimore Orioles, in which he pitched strong enough to win with another seven innings and three runs that dropped his record to 11-2 with a 2.11 ERA.
Still, if Tanaka is going to receive a 2034 ovation like the ones Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Joe Torre got, he is going to need more support. The greatest cheers are usually saved for the champions.
On Sunday, the Yankees didn't look like a team that will make it through October, if they even make it there at all. The offense got shut down once again. This time, it was against Chris Tillman, who entered with a 4.82 ERA.
It is already apparent this is not a vintage Yankee group, but they should be a little better than the utter inconsistency witnessed in the first 74 games.
"Well, yeah, I think that’s probably fair to say," manager Joe Girardi said after the Yankees' lost two of three to the Orioles, scoring a grand total of one run in the final two games. "But we still have a long ways to go. And I see signs of us swinging the bats better, I really do. But it is what it is, and we go from here."
They head to Toronto to play the first place Blue Jays on Monday. The Jays, Orioles and Yankees are all tied in the loss column in the mediocre AL East, but Toronto has a game-and-a-half lead with three extra wins.
GM Brian Cashman is hamstrung to make a trade for a hitter. In theory, he could deal for a second or third baseman, but, at the moment, there don't seem to be any of quality available.
At some point, Rob Refsnyder might become an option at second. Refsnyder, 23, earned a promotion after hitting .342 at Double-A Trenton. In 11 games for Triple-A Scranton, he batted .293. If he keeps it up, maybe he forces Cashman to push him up another level to provide the offense a jolt.
This offense needs to be led by Teixeira, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. Brett Gardner, arguably the best offensive player on the team thus far, is doing his part, while Derek Jeter, despite batting second, is not a main player with his 40th birthday on Thursday.
The weakness of the AL East is the only thing that gives the Yankees' room for error. While everyone can fairly point out the Yankees' deficiencies -- even Girardi agreed on, at least, one -- no one should be myopic and fail to notice the Jays' and O's imperfections.
Even in defeat, Tanaka's greatness was displayed for the old-timers. He continues to show the ability to escape most trouble. In the first, Tanaka allowed the first two Orioles' singles before a flyout and strikeouts of Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis ended the inning.
Tanaka does give up the occasional solo homer. No. 8 batter Jonathan Schoop got him in the second. It was the 11th homer that Tanaka's allowed, 11 of which have been solo shots. Tanaka would give up two more runs, but still seven innings and three runs should be plenty good enough to win.
On too many days and nights, it hasn't been for the Yankees. So Tanaka took the loss, but it is the offense that is problematic.