The Yankees won a closely contested game in the series opener against Seattle, and wanted no part in a competitive match on Tuesday. New York took the lead in the first inning and never came close to feeling threatened, cruising through the game thanks to a pair of blasts and a vintage performance from Masahiro Tanaka.
Tanaka pitched a gem back on August 11 on the road against the Blue Jays, but so far this season that stood out as the exception to the norm. Tanaka has struggled mightily away from Yankee Stadium, with an ERA three points higher than his home numbers. Against the Mariners however, Tanaka came close to that untouchable form he was in a few weeks ago.
The right-hander carved through the Mariners lineup for the first four innings. The only baserunner he allowed came in the third via a walk to Dee Gordon, and Tanaka immediately erased him with a 4-6-3 double play ball.
Seattle finally broke the goose egg that Tanaka held over the hits column in the fifth when Kyle Seager led off with a double, but Tanaka managed to strand him at third. The Mariners only got two other baserunners while Tanaka was in, and only one runner made it into scoring position. Simply put he was excellent, and a growing pitch count was the only reason he couldn’t finish the game.
The Yankees’ offense did its part to make Tanaka comfortable on the mound, staking him an early lead and adding to it generously. DJ LeMahieu led off the game against Yusei Kikuchi with a single, setting up Aaron Judge to launch a ball out to center for a two-run shot. Judge now has four home runs in his last seven games, heating up after a prolonged slump.
New York jumped on Kikuchi again in the third inning. Gleyber Torres led off with a single to left, and Gary Sanchez slapped another single that put runners on the corners. Brett Gardner worked a 2-0 count before attacking a ball up out of the zone, just clearing the wall in right field for a three-run home run.
The Yankees had all the runs they needed, but they continued to work Seattle’s pitching. Reggie McClain relieved Kikuchi to start the fifth inning, and served up a leadoff double to Gio Urshela. Urshela advanced to third and then scored on consecutive groundballs from Mike Tauchman and Austin Romine that pushed the lead to six. Romine came up in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and worked a walk to cash in a seventh run.
Luis Cessa took over for Tanaka starting in the eighth inning, and retired six of the seven batters he faced. The lone hit he gave up came on an infield hit in the ninth that Urshela fielded but couldn’t throw to first in time for. The shutout was secured, and the top arms in the bullpen got a rest day after some tight contests of late.
The Yankees now have the opportunity to sweep Seattle and secure a winning record on the road trip, something that seemed next to impossible the way it started. Their lead in the AL East is back over double digits, and they’ve touched 40 games over .500 again.