It's always a good feeling for fans when the ace is on the mound, and it was sure nice to have Masahiro Tanaka back pitching for the Yankees. He hadn't taken the hill in the majors since April 23rd in Detroit, as he missed a month with elbow tendinitis.
Tanaka certainly did not show any signs of rust in Seattle this afternoon. He went six up, six down through the first two innings and Mark Teixeira put him on top 1-0 with his 16th homer of the season, a figure which ranks just two behind opponent Nelson Cruz for the American League lead. The Mariners did respond in the third, when Brad Miller and Dustin Ackley notched back-to-back extra-base hits to begin the inning, tying the game at one apiece. That would turn out to be the only damage the Mariners did all day against Tanaka. It was convenient that he was so economic, as he was on an 85-pitch count. Tanaka was masterful and efficient, needing just 78 pitches to get through seven innings of three-hit ball with a season-high nine strikeouts and no walks.
On the other side, Taijuan Walker held his own against Tanaka, but last night's hero Garrett Jones took advantage of one of the few mistakes he made. Alex Rodriguez was on first base after a leadoff walk in the fourth, and with two outs, Jones demolished a pitch to deep right field for his third homer of the season. Otherwise, Walker was quite good, pitching eight innings and allowing just five hits and a walk while striking out seven. Unfortunately for Seattle, those two dingers did Walker in. Womp womp.
When Tanaka departed the game, it became quite uncomfortable in the eighth with Chris Capuano on in his first relief appearance of the season. Dellin Betances was off for a day of rest after pitching the last two days, so it was up to Capuano. Justin Ruggiano pinch-hit a single and after Capuano fanned Miller, he departed in favor of the Yankees' superior Miller. Today wasn't Andrew Miller's sharpest day though, as he drilled pinch-hitter Rickie Weeks, walked Mike Zunino to load the bases, and went 3-0 on Logan Morrison. The Mariners needed just a single to tie the game and could very easily break it open with a bad pitch. Miller recovered to strike Morrison out, then ended the inning on a fielder's choice. In the ninth, Miller struck out their most fearsome hitters in Cruz and Robinson Cano (now down to .244/.286/.330 with a 74 wRC+, oof) and Cruz, then after an infield single by Kyle Seager, the sweep was completed on a weak grounder by Ruggiano.
The sweep pushed the Yankees to four games over .500 at 29-25, and the weary bullpen will now get a much-needed day off as they travel home from the West Coast. They will return to action on Friday night in the Bronx, as Nathan Eovaldi takes on Mike Trout and the Angels at 7:05pm. Do more of this winning, it's quite fun!