I said I wanted the Yankees to go at least 4-2 in these last two series before the break. They got halfway there this afternoon with a series-clinching win over the A's behind a strong start from Masahiro Tanaka and an All Star-caliber performance by 2015 American League All Star Brett Gardner.
Things didn't look promising for Tanaka early. He seemed to get rattled by a catcher's interference call to start the top of the 2nd and gave up a double to Billy Butler in the next at-bat to tie the game at 1. A walk and another double made it 2-1 Oakland and got the NY tabloid guys' fingers ready to type out another "the sky is falling!!!" post on Tanaka for tomorrow morning. The 2-seamer appeared to be the problem pitch, and Tanaka's command in general seemed a tick off again.
And then he went on to retire the next 18 batters he faced in a row. From the start of the 3rd inning into the 8th, Tanaka was perfect. In fact, he was better than perfect. He had to get 4 outs in the 4th inning when a strikeout pitch was wild and the Oakland batter reached base. Whatever command problems he had got fixed quickly and Tanaka was a ground ball machine for the rest of the game. When he wasn't getting GB outs, he was finding and locating his splitter and slider as swing-and-miss strikeout pitches. It was vintage Tanaka, almost as if those couple of bad outings really were just blips on the radar and no reason to panic. The guy's a great pitcher and great pitchers always figure it out.
The Yankee run support of this great starting pitching performance was early and often, with a late-game gut punch for good measure. 2015 American League All Star Brett Gardner got things started with his 10th home run of the season in the bottom of the 1st. The dude is positively deadly when he's locked in on a fastball. Gardner was right in the middle of the action in the 3rd as well, singling after a Jacoby Ellsbury leadoff walk to set the table for Mark Teixeira. Teix singled home Ells for the game-tying run, Ellsbury singled home 2 more in the 4th to go ahead, and they never looked back.
Chasen Shreve came in for Tanaka with 2 outs in the 8th and got the final one no problem. This set up the bottom of the order for an insurance rally in the bottom half, which came on a Chris Young walk, Cole Figueroa ground-rule double, and a Marcus Semien error. Always nice when the defense can help you out and nobody does it better than Semien.
Shreve almost finished things up with 2 outs in the 9th, but Josh Reddick singled to bring out Joe for a pitching change. I could almost feel all the Joe haters' anger there. It felt grand. Adam Warren came on and struck out Billy Butler on 3 pitches for the final out because Adam Warren is the man. So close to being a sweep, but in the end you can't be unhappy with taking 2 of 3. The Yanks move on to the weekend and what should be a fun series with the Sox.
- 12 GB outs for Tanaka, 10 swinging strikes, 1 walk, and 114 pitches. All the things you want to see. He's healthy, he's strong, he's commanding, and he's throwing good stuff.
- 3 more hits for Gardner. He just won't stop. He's on pace for roughly 180 hits, 115 runs scored, 20 HR, 30 SB, and 80 RBI. That'd be a helluva season.
- Shout out to Cole Figueroa for making his Yankee debut today and going 2-4 with 2 doubles and 2 runs scored. He was right in the middle of the go-ahead and insurance rallies in the 4th and 8th.
- Day off for Betances today, and Miller as well. Between that, Warren only throwing 3, and Justin Wilson getting a day off, the 'pen is in great shape for this weekend. Atta boy, Joe!