The heroes for the Yankees on getaway day could be found sixty feet, six inches apart. The starting battery of Masahiro Tanaka and Gary Sanchez took control of the rubber game of this series from the outset, and the Yankees silenced the Mariners with another superb pitching performance.
Tanaka matched up with his former teammate in Japan, Hisashi Iwakuma, who was no slouch. Unfortunately for Iwakuma, he immediately ran into Sanchez, the hottest hitter in baseball. He promptly parked a pitch a long, long way into the left field upper deck at Safeco Field, one of the most majestic homers ever hit in the 15-year history of that ballpark. Sanchez later added a double, though he was stranded in that inning.
The phenom now has nine homers in thirteen games—simply amazing. By the end of the game, the Mariners were so terrified of Sanchez that they intentionally walked him twice, even to load the bases in the ninth. That sounds about right.
The Yankees added another run in the second following a scoreless frame from Tanaka. Iwakuma plunked Judge to put the big man on first base, and the resurgent Aaron Hicks smoked a single into left. Tyler Austin then broke his hitless streak with a base hit into left field that scored Judge. It’s almost as though a few quiet games didn’t mean that Austin was a bust.
The Mariners threatened in the bottom of the second with an assist from a mental mistake. Adam Lind and Leonys Martin hit back-to-back singles with one out, setting the table for third baseman Shawn O'Malley. He could only manage a comebacker, and Martin strayed way off the bag at second. Tanaka made sure Lind wasn't going from third and threw to Austin at first for the force. Martin was still far from second though, and instead of throwing over, Austin held the ball. To his credit, Tanaka picked the rookie up by inducing a groundout from Chris Iannetta to escape unscathed.
Another scoring opportunity for Seattle went by the wayside in the next inning. With one out, Nori Aoki doubled and Seth Smith worked a walk to bring the always-dangerous Robinson Cano up to bat. However, Tanaka remained tough, and ended up with the exact result he wanted—a ground ball double play to end the inning.
From that point on, the Mariners couldn’t touch Tanaka. They put just two runners on base in his final four innings, and one of them could only reach via a successful drag bunt. He fanned five batters with no walks in his seven shutout innings, lowering his ERA to 3.11. It was his fifth start of the season with at least seven shutout innings, mark unmatched in the American League. That is an ace.
Meanwhile, the Yankees tacked on some insurance runs against the Mariners’ pitching staff. A failed double play turn by O’Malley in the fourth led to a sacrifice fly from birthday boy Brett Gardner. Three innings later, the first intentional walk to Sanchez failed, as Mark Teixeira surprised the hard-throwing Arquimedes Caminero with an opposite-field single to bring Gardner home. After Dellin Betances bailed out Tyler Clippard with runners on in the eighth by striking out the last batter, the offense added a fifth run thanks to bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Starlin Castro.
Betances returned to the mound in the ninth to lock down the save (he had entered in a save situation). He capped it with two strikeouts and a fly ball to right from Iannetta. That was the ballgame and a successful series in Seattle.
The Yankees will have a day off tomorrow as they return from the West Coast back to normal start times. They have a key home series ahead against the Orioles beginning on Friday at 7:05pm. Hopefully, the legend of Gary continues.