CHICAGO -- A normally potent White Sox offense ran into a buzz saw called Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field.
Tanaka was stingy most of the way, facing just two over the minimum through the first five innings. He allowed one run on five hits and struck out six in 6 2/3 innings, sending the White Sox to a 7-1 loss to the Yankees before a sellout crowd of 39,142. Chicago settled for a split after taking the first two games from New York.
"He's good. He does a lot of things with the ball, slider, split, all that kind of stuff," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "But really the command that he has, I think that's the impressive part. If he does get himself in a hole, he's able to fight back and make it tough. The offspeed stuff is really good."
Paul Konerko became the White Sox first baserunner when Tanaka plunked him to lead off the third, while Conor Gillaspie broke up Tanaka's no-hit bid with a one-out single in the fourth, but the Sox couldn't put together a sustained rally. The Japanese righty took his first loss in 42 regular-season starts dating back to his time in Japan by allowing four runs (three earned) his last time out Tuesday against the Cubs, and he wasn't about to let it happen in consecutive starts.
Other than Gillaspie's fourth-inning single and Alejandro De Aza's third-inning lineout, the White Sox hit few balls hard off Tanaka. Gillaspie prevented the shutout with a two-out bloop single in the sixth that scored Tyler Flowers, who led off the inning with double over the head of Brett Gardner in left.
Chicago looked like it might finally get to Tanaka in the seventh when Adam Dunn walked and Alexei Ramirez singled to lead off the inning, but Konerko lined out to short and Dunn was caught too far off second base for a double play. De Aza followed with a walk that chased Tanaka before righty Adam Warren came in and struck out Flowers.
"He's got good stuff," said second baseman Gordon Beckham. "I thought we should have hit him a little bit better than we did today. He was good. [He] keeps guys off-balance and throws pitches for strikes, and he spots up pretty well. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes, so that will usually win a game. He did it."
As Beckham mentioned, the White Sox did have some chances to drive in runs, but finished just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Yankees, on the other hand, seemed to cash in on every opportunity against Sox starter Andre Rienzo. The main antagonist was retiring Yankees captain Derek Jeter, which was fitting considering he was given three gifts by the White Sox before the game. Jeter returned the favor with four hits, two RBIs and a run scored it what is likely his last game in Chicago barring a playoff matchup.
"I thought it was great," Beckham said of the pregame ceremony for Jeter. "It's nice for the White Sox and the fans of Chicago to come out and just show him, just say thanks, I guess. He's meant a lot to the game over the last 20 years, and you know it's just a fitting end to his last game in Chicago. I thought it was cool."
New York jumped on Rienzo, who struggled with his command in five innings of work, with four runs allowed in the second. A two-run single by Gardner, an RBI single from Jeter and a sacrifice fly by Jacoby Ellsbury made it 4-0. Rienzo allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.
"It seems all day he was just working from behind," Ventura said. "He wasn't getting ahead. This was a day that he just wasn't as sharp as he's been in previous outings, so it cost him."
"I had a little trouble with command and the ball was a little bit up," Rienzo said. "It's the same issue as last year, when the ball is up, my ball is hit hard. So after that I kind of controlled the game, but that inning hurt."
The Yankees added a run in the fourth when Jeter lined a ball to right-center past a diving Adam Eaton for a triple and later scored on a wild pitch. New York made it 6-0 on Jeter's fourth hit of the day in the sixth, a single to center that scored Alfonso Soriano. It was vintage Jeter, who used the whole field to collect his 45th four-plus-hit game and raise his batting average to .275. He wouldn't have to perform all that well this season to get a warm reception everywhere he goes, but to him, this final season is more than a farewell tour.
"I have expectations of myself every year. Those never change," Jeter said. "I'm also well aware that it's a long season and we still don't have very many at-bats, so to say you have a few good days, you may not be even close to where you want to be. I still have expectations of myself."
Gillaspie's run-producing single, meanwhile, accounted for the only run the White Sox have scored in the last 17 innings. That doesn't by any means constitute a prolonged slump, but things are certainly tougher without Jose Abreu around. The White Sox dropped to 4-4 since their rookie sensation went on the DL with left ankle inflammation.
"We're just playing. You can't sit back and count the days for Abreu or anything like that," Ventura said. "You play and you want them competing. They were competing today, but their guy was really good."
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.