It was not long until Tanaka regained his rhythm, and once he did, he was on his way to another victory.
Tanaka struck out 10 in six innings for his major-league-leading 11th victory, and the New York Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays 3-1 in the opener of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.
Tanaka (11-1) won his fifth consecutive start since his only loss, May 20 at Wrigley Field. He survived on a night when his stuff was not its sharpest early on, especially when the Toronto shortstop opened the game by driving a four-seam fastball over the right field wall.
"I just said to myself that I really need to hang in there and not give in," Tanaka said through an interpreter.
"He just threw a pitch down the middle and up to start the game," said New York manager Joe Girardi, who earned his 600th win with the team. "Reyes is very familiar with this ballpark, and he knows what to do with it. He jumped out on it, went for the short part of the park and hit it out. Then (Tanaka) just started doing what he does."
Four of Toronto's five hits off Tanaka came in the first three innings, but the right-hander worked out of jams in the first and third by striking out catcher Dioner Navarro for the final out in both instances.
"I don't feel I was making any adjustments," Tanaka said. "Overall I think my stuff was not really that good. All I was trying to do was try to hang in there and keep the ball down."
Tanaka did more than just hang in there in the final three innings of his 14th major league start. He recorded half of his strikeouts in the fourth and fifth, a stretch highlighted by when he fanned left fielder Melky Cabrera, right fielder Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion consecutively on swinging strikes.
Tanaka lowered his league-leading ERA to 1.99 and recorded a quality start for the 14th straight time, the longest streak to begin a career since Montreal's Steve Rogers opened 1973 with 16 quality starts. He turned in his fifth double-digit strikeout game and won a second straight home game in which he had to grind through at-bats.
"I don't think it's fair to expect (perfection) from anyone," Girardi said. "I don't care what your stuff is. I don't care if you throw 110. What he's done has been remarkable, and he has been a big part of our success this year, and he continues to just grind out starts and make adjustments and give us distance. He wins."
Tanaka threw 66 of 104 pitches for strikes and had six three-ball counts. He also held the Blue Jays to one hit in 10 at-bats with men on base as the Yankees improved to 12-2 in his starts.
"I feel that I was not able to make my pitches," Tanaka said. "I was not able to hit the spots."
Tanaka's night ended when he stranded designated hitter Juan Francisco at second by retiring second baseman Munenori Kawasaki, who was 18-for-64 (.281) off Tanaka in Japan.
Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner hit a two-run home run in the third inning, and first baseman Mark Teixeira added an RBI single in the fifth.
New York reliever Dellin Betances fanned three in two perfect innings. Closer David Robertson worked around a two-out triple to Kawasaki in the ninth en route to his 17th save.
"He's been really good," Robertson said of Tanaka. "He battled his butt off. It was hot and sticky, and he did a great job."
The Blue Jays were held to three runs or fewer for the eighth time in 11 games. They lost for the seventh time in 10 games as Cabrera, Bautista and Encarnacion were a combined 2-for-7 with four strikeouts off Tanaka and 2-for-11 with six strikeouts overall.
"The key tonight was we couldn't get any offense," Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
Blue Jays rookie starter Marcus Stroman (3-2) labored through 3 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and four hits. He pitched in front of several family and friends from his native Long Island.
NOTES: After the game, the Blue Jays said that they were sending down OF Anthony Gose to Triple-A Buffalo. They will activate OF Colby Rasmus on Wednesday after he missed 32 games with a hamstring injury. ... Before the national anthems, the Yankees showed a video tribute to former San Diego OF Tony Gwynn, who died Monday at age 54 from oral cancer. Gwynn's only games against the Yankees came in the 1998 World Series, when he went 8-for-16 and hit an upper deck home run in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium ... Both teams made pregame transactions. The Blue Jays optioned RHP Steve Delabar to Buffalo while recalling INF Munenori Kawasaki. ... The Yankees activated C Francisco Cervelli from the 15-day disabled list and optioned C John Ryan Murphy to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. ... New York LHP CC Sabthia (right knee) threw a bullpen session Monday, and he will have another session Wednesday.