Masahiro Tanaka edged out Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma on Sunday afternoon, with both pitchers throwing seven innings. The Yankees finally got some depth out of their rotation, giving most of the bullpen some much needed rest. They also broke out of a massive slump with runners in scoring position, one that will hopefully be a thing of the past going forward.
The Mariners opened up the scoring in the first, with three consecutive seeing-eye singles against Tanaka. The Yankees' ace managed to get Kyle Seager to bounce into a fielder's choice for the second out, but Seth Smith scored on the play to make it 1-0 Mariners.
According to Brooks Baseball, Tanaka threw just 5 four-seam fastballs over his first two starts. He appeared to be more confident in the pitch today, running it up to 93 mph according to the YES Network radar gun. It is possible that the warmer weather will help Tanaka utilize his full repertoire of pitches. Judging by the composure he showed during the potentially dangerous first inning, Tanaka showed flashes of having his swagger back.
Speaking of which, the slumping Alex Rodriguez hit a screaming line drive into the left field bleachers for a two-run homer in the bottom of the second. The 397-foot blast raised his batting average to .129, which might not sound as impressive. But the homer was also number 689 for A-Rod's career, putting him within 25 of Babe Ruth.
The Yankees broke their 26 at bat hitless streak with runners in scoring position in the third. Jacoby Ellsbury started off with a single and stole second, advancing to third on an errant throw. Brett Gardner followed with a ground rule double that was just out of the reach of centerfielder Leonys Martin. Even though Gardner hit the ball the other way, being in Yankee Stadium probably helped him out, as the defensively adept Martin seemed think the wall was closer than it was.
Seattle added in a run in the fourth when Kyle Seager reached on what was scored as an error by Mark Teixeira. Seager laced a pitch from Tanaka at 104 mph off the bat, but play was scored as an error because the ball went between Tex's legs. Catcher Steve Clevenger would go on to drive Seager in with an opposite field single. In the fifth, they tacked on another run to tie the game at 3.
Fortunately for the Yankees, the Mariners couldn't get a shutdown inning. Back to back singles from Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran put runners on first and third, and a wild pitch scored Gardner to put the Yankees back on top.
Tanaka had thrown 93 pitches after seven innings, but Joe Girardi still decided to bring Dellin Betances out for the eighth to protect a 4-3 lead. Tomorrow's off day probably played a role in Girardi's decision, as it may have been less about Tanaka and more about feeling comfortable using Betances and Miller two days in a row. Betances continued to be a human cheat code, striking out the side.
The M's didn't do any better against temporary closer Andrew Miller, who also struck out the side to close out the game for the Yankees. They are off tomorrow, but will be back in action on Tuesday as they host the Oakland A's. Michael Pineda will try to follow Tanaka's lead and turn in a quality start. Here is the official box score from today's win.