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Yankees 6, Rays 1: Masahiro Tanaka tosses gem, racks up 14 strikeouts

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Masahiro Tanaka flirted with perfection as the Yankees win five in a row.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Last night the Yankees won an exciting game in extra-innings. Tonight’s victory came together a little more conventionally. The Bombers broke out the home run swings and received a top-notch pitching performance. That’s an ideal combination, and one that resulted in the Yankees topping the Rays by a score of 5 - 1.

The story of the game revolved around Masahiro Tanaka. You wouldn't know that he’s struggled all season given the way he pitched. In fact, the right-hander retired the first 17 batters he faced. He carved up a potent Rays’ lineup, elevating his fastball and working at the bottom of the zone with his off-speed pitches.

Credit: Baseball Savant

The only blemish against Tanaka came in the form of a solo home run off the bat of Lucas Duda in seventh inning. Duda hitting a moonshot against the Yankees felt inevitable this series. Thankfully this one didn’t hurt.

All told, he allowed just one run over eight innings. He also set a new career-high with 14 strike outs. Tanaka tossed an absolute masterpiece — vintage stuff. The Yankees need Tanaka if they plan on making a serious playoff push. Tonight’s outing indicates that he could be a key piece down the stretch.

Meanwhile, the Yankees offense picked right back up where they left off yesterday. Brett Gardner deposited an Austin Pruitt fastball to center field to start the first inning. His 19th home run on the year gave the Yankees an instant 1 - 0 lead. Pruitt would rebound and strike out the next three batters, but the damage was already done. Love those first inning home runs.

Fourth inning home runs are also cool. With one out, Pruitt faced Aaron Judge. The Yankees right fielder turned on a 1 - 2 fastball for his 33rd home run on the season. Say what you will about Judge and his mini-slump, but this ball got out of the park in a hurry. It was a laser line drive to left field, extending the Yankees’ lead to 2 - 0.

The fun didn’t stop there, though. The very next inning saw Clint Frazier step up to the plate with two runners on and two outs. Pruitt hung an 0 - 1 slider and Red Thunder destroyed the ball. He sent it 455 feet to left center for a three run shot. This was a no-doubter off the bat, making it a 5 - 0 game.

The Bombers refused to go quietly the rest of the way. Rays left-hander Adam Kolarek hit Gardner with a pitch to start the bottom of the eighth inning. He retired the next two batters before intentionally walking Gary Sanchez to face Didi Gregorius. That proved a poor decision, as the red-hot Gregorius lined a RBI-single to left field, giving the Yankees a 6 - 1 lead. Sanchez was thrown out at home, but that didn’t matter as David Robertson closed the game out in the next inning. This team sure is fun.

The Yankees go for their sixth win in a row tomorrow afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM, and it will be Caleb Smith against Blake Snell.

Box Score