It was that special time of week when Yankees fans got treated to a Masahiro Tanaka appearance with the bonus of getting to watch him hit. He would face a formidable challenge in the National League Central leading Milwaukee Brewers who sent out their own ace Yovani Gallardo to oppose him. Fortunately, the Yankees and their young ace were more than up to the challenge.
Not surprisingly, the first three innings yielded little offense. The teams managed only 4 baserunners but eight strikeouts between them . The Yankees broke the trend in the fourth with a big scoring inning. After a leadoff walk to Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann lined a one-out single. Yangervis Solarte then celebrated his 100th career MLB at bat with a three-run homer that just cleared the right field fence. A Brett Gardner infield single and Brian Roberts double brought in the fourth run of the inning.
It was all smooth sailing for Tanaka who looked well on his way to a sterling performance until the bottom of the sixth inning. Consecutive doubles from Carlos Gomez and Scooter Gennett ruined the shutout and a single from Jonathan Lucroy cut the lead in half to 4-2 Yankees. A double play coerced out of Aramis Ramirez and a strikeout of Mark Reynolds wrapped up the sixth before things got any worse. Tanaka's day would come to an end in the seventh with one out and runners on first and third. With the lead very much in peril, Joe Girardi went to Adam Warren to face former Yankees outfielder Lyle Overbay. Warren came through big time as he got Overbay to strike out swinging and Brian McCann gunned down Logan Schafer who was trying to steal second for some reason with Gomez at the plate as the go-ahead run.
The Yankees tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth. Beltran chugged out a double to lead it off and Ichiro Suzuki replaced him and stole third. A dribbler up the first base line by Mark Teixeira plated Ichiro to extend the lead to 5-2. Warren continued with a perfect bottom of the inning and handed the keys over to David Robertson for the ninth. Robertson allowed a solo homer to Reynolds to make things slightly more tense but struck out the side for his sixth save and the Yankees' 19th victory.
It was just another normal performance for Tanaka. 6+ innings for the seventh straight time, two earned runs and seven strikeouts versus just one walk. In my head I know he's bound to have a performance that is less than good at some point, but it just seems so difficult to imagine. Most importantly, he didn't hurt himself swinging today. The other star of the game was clearly Solarte, who after weathering a slump that looked like might be his undoing has bounced back and been hitting very well again. RBIs are about as useful a stat as average during sunshowers on Thursdays, but it must make the young man smile to know that he leads the mighty Yankees in that category. Never forget: he barely beat out Eduardo Nunez for a roster spot.
Game Two of the series starts tomorrow at 7:05 PM Eastern even though it's in Milwaukee, so don't be an hour late. CC Sabathia and Kyle Lohse are your probables.