YANKEES 3, MARINERS 1
Based on Masahiro Tanaka’s final rehab start last week and the fact that he had not pitched in a major-league game since April 23, expectations about his return were low and he was placed on a pitch count of 80 to 85.
Based on the results the Yankees received, Tanaka did not need 80 pitches because he dominated the Mariners over seven innings as if he were in midseason form.
Tanaka held the Mariners to one run on three hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in an ace-like performance that allowed New York to complete a three-game sweep of Seattle on Wednesday at Safeco Field.
Tanaka (3-1) needed only 78 pitches (58 of them for strikes) to wade through the Mariners lineup as if he was carving up a Thanksgiving turkey.
Trailing 1-0 to the Yankees, the Mariners scored their lone run off Tanaka in the third inning on a leadoff triple by Brad Miller and an RBI double off the bat of Dustin Ackley. After Mike Zunino struck out, Logan Morrison singled to left and rookie left-fielder Ramon Flores made a perfect throw to home plate to nail a sliding Ackley to keep the game tied.
Tanaka did not allow another base-runner to reach base for the next 4 1/3 innings. The 26-year-old right-hander retired the final 13 batters he faced and struck out five of them. His nine strikeouts are a season high.
The Yankees were able to take an early 1-0 lead on right-hander Taijuan Walker (2-6) on Mark Teixeira’s 16th home run of the season to lead off the second inning. It also was Teixeira’s second home run of the series and his 19th at Safeco Field, which leads all opposing players.
In the fourth inning, the Yankees were able to break the 1-1 tie on a leadoff walk Walker issued to Alex Rodriguez and a two-out, two-run home run deep into the bleachers in right-field by Garrett Jones, who had a three-run home run in the 11th inning on Tuesday that gave the Yankees a 5-2 victory.
It was only Jones’ third home run of the season but he is on a stretch where he has 10 hits in his past 22 at-bats (.455) with three homers and eight RBIs.
The Yankees, however, were unable to solve Walker other than the home runs by Teixeira and Jones.
Walker held the Yankees to three runs on five hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in eight innings. Tanaka was just a bit better.
After Chris Capuano allowed a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Justin Ruggiano and struck out Miller in the eighth, manager Joe Girardi summoned closer Andrew Miller for a five-out save.
But the Mariners made it uncomfortable for the 30-year-old left-hander when pinch-hitter Rickie Weeks reached after being plunked on the right foot by a 1-2 slider and Zunino walked to load the bases.
Miller, nonetheless, struck out Morrison after falling behind 3-0 and got Austin Jackson to bounce into a force out to leave the Mariners scoreless and strand all three base-runners. Miller was able to pitch around a two-out infield single by Kyle Seager in the ninth to earn his 17th save in 17 chances.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 29-25 and increased their lead in the American League East to 1 1/2 games over the idle second-place Tampa Bay Rays. The Mariners have now dropped eight consecutive home games to the Yankees dating back to 2013 and they also have lost five straight games overall. Their record dropped to 24-29.
- The Yankees got Tanaka back at the perfect time. On May 12, the Yankees were 21-12 and seemingly undeterred by Tanaka’s absence. But from May 13 through May 31, the Yankees were 5-12. Tanaka’s performance gave the Yankees a sweep of the Mariners and seems to have broken a string of some really weak starting pitching performances. Tanaka now teams with Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi and Adam Warren give the Yankees a much stronger rotation.
- Teixeira is just having an amazing season and his 16 home runs and 41 RBIs projects out to 48 home runs and 123 RBIs for the season, barring any setbacks. The 48 home runs would top his previous career high of 43 he hit with the Texas Rangers in 2005. The 123 RBIs would be the most he has collected since he drove in 122 in his first season with the Yankees in 2009. That also was the last time the Yankees won a World Series.
- There is a very good possibility that Jones’ recent surge has earned him more playing time. Girardi may choose to play Jones in left with Brett Gardner in center and Carlos Beltran in right against right-handed pitchers until Jacoby Ellsbury returns late this month. That would leave Flores on the bench. But he could be used as a defensive replacement for Jones late in games.
- Ellsbury was injured on May 19 and Gardner became the team’s leadoff hitter on May 20. He started that stretch of games batting .291. Gardner was 0-for-4 on Wednesday and is now batting .271. In those 14 games as the leadoff hitter, Gardner is 12-for-54 (.222) with 16 strikeouts and only two stolen bases. The upshot is that Gardner is pressing to get on base, he is striking out more and he is less aggressive on the bases when he does reach base. The Yankees really need Ellsbury back badly.
In a shocking move, the Yankees on Wednesday elected to designate for assignment right-hander David Carpenter to make room on the roster to activate Tanaka from the 15-day disabled list. Carpenter, 29, was 0-1 with 4.82 ERA in 22 appearances. On Tuesday, Carpenter was summoned to pitch to Jackson in the sixth inning with two out and runners at first and third of a 1-1 game and surrendered an RBI double that gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead. The Yankees eventually rallied to tie the game in the ninth and won it in 11 innings. Carpenter was acquired along with left-hander Chasen Shreve on Jan. 1 in a trade with the Atlanta Braves for left-hander Manny Banuelos. With Carpenter’s release the Yankees have five lefties in the bullpen in Miller, Shreve, Capuano, Jacob Lindgren and Justin Wilson. . . . Catcher Brian McCann left the game after grounding out in the top of the second inning with continued soreness on the bottom of his right foot. McCann, 31, was replaced by John Ryan Murphy and now is scheduled to have an MRI on Thursday when the team returns to New York. McCann is batting .248 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs in 45 games this season.
The Yankees will have a day off after their West Coast swing and they will open a three-game weekend series at Yankee Stadium with the Los Angeles Angels on Friday.
Eovaldi (4-1, 4.40 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Eovaldi, 25, yielded three runs on 11 hits in a shaky 4 2/3 innings in a game the Yankees eventually won against the Oakland Athletics on Saturday.
Right-hander Jered Weaver (4-4, 4.08 ERA) will start for the Angels. Weaver, 32, gave up three runs on nine hits with no walks and three strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings to defeat the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.