It was "Tanaka Time!" in the Bronx again as your hero and mine, Masahiro Tanaka took on the big slugging first place Blue Jays and Marcus Stroman. It was a chance to bring the division leaders back to the pack a little and the Yankees did not let it slip through their grasp.
Things got off to a less than ideal start with the very first batter of the game. Jose Reyes started the Jays off right by smacking a leadoff home run to put Toronto up 1-0 in the first. Tanaka fought hard to get through the next two innings unscathed as the Blue Jays put runners on and worked up his pitch count, but he was able to make it out without more harm being done. The offense rewarded him for his tenacity in the bottom of the third when Brett Gardner hit a two run dinger into the foul pole netting in right to put the Yankees up 2-1. In the fifth the Yankees tacked on a third run courtesy of a single from Mark Teixeira that scored Derek Jeter from second base.
While it seemed for a while like Tanaka was struggling with command, it didn't help the Blue Jays any as he finished his six innings with only the one run allowed and ten strikeouts. There was no quarter for Toronto as Dellin Betances came on for Tanaka in the seventh and dispatched the Jays with ease over his two innings of perfect work. Betances gave way to David Robertson and he dealt with Toronto's hitters in much the same manner, working around a badly misplayed triple from Munenori Kawasaki by Gardner to close out the game for his 17th save. I think it's reasonable to say a Tanaka-Betances-Robertson formula is about as good as you're going to get not only for the Yankees, but in all of baseball.
It was tough sledding early on, but it still turned out to be another virtuoso performance from Masahiro Tanaka as he earned his eleventh win and inched ever closer to that All-Star Game start. Bonus difficulty points for being as good as he was against a team with the power and patience that the Blue Jays have. They got his pitch count up and smacked a couple of his mistakes, but Tanaka is proving to be both overpowering artiste and tough bulldog when it comes to pitching. If he doesn't wipe you away with ease he'll break you down until you finally succumb. It's an absolute joy to watch. The offense was as it often has been: sparingly effective. But they did just enough to get the win, so I suppose I can hold off on lambasting them for the moment.
Game two of the AL East showdown begins at 7:05 PM tomorrow. Chase Whitley and Mark Buehrle are your probables.