YANKEES 6, ATHLETICS 2
Masahiro Tanaka was well aware of the whispers after he went 0-2 with a 6.26 ERA in his past four starts. They were saying that he was not pitching well because of that slightly torn right elbow ligament.
On Thursday he got a chance to silence those naysayers and he did it in style.
Tanaka (5-3) pitched two-hit baseball over 7 2/3 innings and newly selected All-Star team replacement Brett Gardner homered while Jacoby Ellsbury added two RBIs as New York won the three-game series over Oakland in front of paid crowd of 40,084 at Yankee Stadium.
After Gardner hit his 10th home run with one out in the first inning to hand him an early 1-0 lead, Tanaka struggled in the second inning.
Josh Reddick reached on a rare catcher’s interference call on Brian McCann. Billy Butler followed with an RBI double to left that scored Reddick. Two outs later, Mark Canha plated Butler with an RBI double off the center-field wall.
Though the Athletics did not know it, Tanaka would then go on to retire the next 18 batters he faced without giving up a hit or a walk. Butler did reach first with one out in the fourth inning after striking out on a wild pitch.
So Tanaka ended his day being charged with two runs (one earned) on two hits and no walks and he struck out six in a masterful season-high 114-pitch performance.
The Yankees, meanwhile, were able to tie the game in the bottom of the third inning against right-hander Jesse Chavez.
Ellsbury drew a leadoff four-pitch walk and Gardner followed with a single to center as part of his three-hit day. Mark Teixeira then scored Ellsbury on a single up the middle for his 62nd RBI of the season, which leads the American League.
The Yankees took the lead for good in the fourth after Chavez issued Stephen Drew a one-out walk and Cole Figueroa, who was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre earlier in the day, delivered one of his two doubles on the afternoon to advance Drew to third. Ellsbury then laced a two-run single to right to score Drew and Figueroa.
Chavez (4-2) surrendered four runs on seven hits and three walks with three strikeouts in five innings.
The Yankees added a pair of unearned runs in the eighth inning off right-hander Fernando Rodriguez.
Chris Young drew a one-out walk and Figueroa followed one out later with a ground-rule double to right. Both Young and Figueroa scored when Marcus Semien fielded Ellsbury’s ground ball but committed his major-league-leading 28th error of the season when first baseman Ike Davis was unable to catch his errant throw.
Left-hander Chasen Shreve and right-hander Adam Warren combined to throw 1 1/3 scoreless innings to close out the victory for Tanaka.
With the victory the Yankees are now 46-39 and they have opened up a three-game lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The A’s dropped to 39-49.
- Tanaka’s final start before the All-Star break was just what he needed to build upon after he missed more than a month with an arm injury unrelated to his elbow ligament tear. He is 5-3 with a 3.63 ERA in 11 starts. In order for the Yankees to maintain their lead in the division it will be important for Tanaka to pitch closer to the 13-5 and 2.77 ERA he recorded last season in 20 starts. I would not want to bet against him doing it after seeing him on Thursday.
- Ellsbury’s return to the lineup on Wednesday after being activated from the disabled list paid big dividends in this game. He and Gardner combined to go 4-for-9 with a walk, a home run, three singles, two runs scored and three RBIs. They reached base in seven of their 10 at-bats. Gardner was 3-for-5 and is now hitting .303 on the season. This speedy tandem is going to create a lot of havoc on the bases in the second half as long as they stay healthy.
- Figueroa, 28, was called up to play third base in the absence of Chase Headley, who has some minor inflammation in his right calf. All Figueroa did was go 2-for-4 with two doubles and he scored two runs in his first major-league game. Figueroa was hitting .317 with three homers and 36 RBIs in 77 games at Scranton.
Nothing negative here. The Yankees got a great effort from their ace right-hander and with Gardner and Ellsbury getting on base often it is going to be difficult for teams to keep the Yankees from scoring runs in bunches. The rest of the division better watch out.
In order for the team to call up Figueroa the Yankees sent Jose Pirela, 23, to Scranton. Pirela was hitting a disappointing .212 with one home run and four RBIs in 29 games. Pirela hit.305 at Scranton last season and batted a robust .370 this spring. But he has not found his stroke with the Yankees this season. In addition, the Yankees had to designate for assignment outfielder Taylor Dugas, 25, to make room on the 40-man roster for Figueroa. . . . In the fifth inning the public address announced that Gardner, 31, had been selected by Ned Yost of the Kansas City Royals – who is managing the American League All-Star team – to replace outfielder Alex Gordon of the Royals on the roster. Gordon suffered an injured groin in a game on Wednesday and will be sidelined for a minimum of six weeks. Gordon had been selected to start for the American League in the fan vote. For Gardner it was the first time he had been selected for the team. Gardner is batting .303 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs this season.
The Yankees will open their final pre-All-Star Game series with their hated rival Boston Red Sox on Friday at Fenway Park.
Right-hander Michael Pineda (8-5, 3.79 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Pineda pitched a brilliant seven innings of shutout baseball. yielding only five hits and one walk while striking out 10 against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. He did not get a decision but the Yankees eventually won the game in the ninth inning.
Right-hander Clay Buchholz (7-6, 3.27 ERA) will start for the Red Sox. Buchholz threw nine innings of one-run baseball, giving up six hits, no walks and striking five in a complete-game victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by WPIX.