The Yankees came into this road series facing a scorching hot Blue Jays squad that had lost one game since July 28th. Now, they have two straight wins against that same team. Masahiro Tanaka was fantastic this afternoon, recording his first complete game in 2015 with a five-hitter while limiting a powerful Toronto lineup to just one run as the Yankees secured a 4-1 victory.
Opposing Tanaka was righty Marco Estrada, who gave the Yankees fits last Sunday in the shutout performance that finished off Toronto's Yankee Stadium sweep. Last night's hero, Carlos Beltran, wasted no time ensuring that this matinée would not go nearly as well. In Estrada's first inning, he crushed a long homer to right for the second straight at-bat, putting the Yankees on top, 1-0.
The score remained the same as Estrada and Tanaka dueled for the next four innings until the latter ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth. Tanaka made the mistake of walking the light-hitting Ryan Goins on four pitches, an error very difficult to escape in this deep Blue Jays lineup. He made matters worse by allowing a single to left by Ben Revere, putting runners on first and second for the always-dangerous Troy Tulowitzki. Tanaka pitched around him, walking the shortstop to load the bases with no one out, a nightmare situation with Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion due up next.
What followed was exactly what Joe Girardi wanted to see from his ace. Donaldson was only able to lift a fly ball to left field, which did score the tying run, but could not advance Revere to third. In a tense at-bat, Tanaka struck out Bautista. Finally, Encarnacion hit a soft liner to Stephen Drew's left at second base. The inning was over, the game was tied, and Tanaka was out of a huge jam.
The Yankees' offense rewarded their pitcher with some run support, starting in the very next half-inning. With two outs, Mark Teixeira lifted a long, towering drive down the right field line and into the second deck for his 31st homer of the year. Rookie Greg Bird almost did the exact same thing was an even higher blast, but it just went foul as Bird narrowly missed slugging a two-run homer for his first career hit. Estrada struck Bird out and finished the game with six innings of three-hit, two-run ball.
Estrada's bullpen did not keep the score a one-run margin. With one out in the eighth and the ageless LaTroy Hawkins on the mound, Beltran registered his second extra base hit of the game on a booming double to deep right-center field. Chris Young ran for Beltran, and Teixeira singled him home with a base hit to left. Bird soon followed with career hit number one, a single through the left side. Both runners were stranded, but the Yankees tacked on a fourth run in the ninth anyway thanks to a leadoff double by John Ryan Murphy against Aaron Loup. Drew bunted him to third, and Jacoby Ellsbury brought Murphy to the plate with an RBI single to center, running the score up to a more comfortable 4-1 advantage.
Aside from the one shaky inning, Tanaka was masterful. The fifth would be the only frame that the Blue Jays put two baserunners on at the same time against him, as he held them to just four hits and one walk outside of the fifth. He struck out eight batters and finished the game in style with a perfect ninth, saving the Yankees' bullpen for his first complete game since June 2014. Tanaka was amazing to watch over his 112 pitches, and the Yankees can only hope that this version of Tanaka appears more down the stretch as they look to improve their lead in the AL East.
The Yankees hope to fully "punch back" tomorrow afternoon as Luis Severino goes for the sweep against Drew Hutchison. If the young righty follows Tanaka's example, then the Yankees should have an awesome finale.