Masahiro Tanaka’s one earned run and four strikeouts in six innings combined with three shutout innings by the recently shaky bullpen helped the Yankees end their four-game losing streak and get a 2-1 win over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday afternoon. Tanaka has been the MVP for the Yankees since they are now 10-2 in games that he has pitched and 20-27 in all of the games that he hasn’t started.
In his six innings, Tanaka allowed five hits, which included a homer to catcher John Jaso in the first inning, one walk and threw 71 of his 104 pitches for strikes. He has thrown a quality start in every outing this season (three runs or less in six or more innings) and has allowed one run or less in each of his last three starts. Tanaka leads the American League with his 2.02 ERA and 0.96 WHIP and is second in the AL with nine wins.
Joe Girardi was impressed with the rookie from Japan and thought it might have been his most clutch start so far. “I thought it was a gritty performance on his park. They’re tough outs and they make you work,” Girardi said. “It’s a big win. I think you could say it’s maybe his biggest performance for us.”
Tanaka admitted after the game that Oakland’s offense was difficult for him to face, even though he only allowed one run. “It was a tough game for me today,” Tanaka said. “I think the Athletics were really resilient. They didn’t give in.”
Alfonso Soriano, who might be coming out of his slump as he was two for three, hit a single to center in the first that drove in Brian McCann to make the score 1-1. In the third inning, Brett Gardner hit his fourth homer of the season to give the Yankees a one-run lead that they would keep for the rest of the game. The Yankees had six hits off of Drew Pomeranz and one against Jim Johnson, and Jacoby Ellsbury was the only Yankee besides Soriano to have two hits.
Dellin Betances and Adam Warren, who pitched the seventh and eighth innings after Tanaka came out of the game after the sixth inning, rebounded well after each allowing runs in their previous appearances. Betances stuck out one and Warren picked up two K’s, as they both continued to outstanding relievers out of the bullpen for the Yankees. Betances has been the best set up man in the bullpen, and possibly the AL, as he has a 1.54 ERA to go along with 59 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 35 innings.
The offense is still struggling as they have only scored more than four runs once in their last 11 games. They have also scored two runs or less in five of their last seven games. The offensive ineptitude has helped lead to going 3-6 in their last nine games.
The Yankees will look to break their offensive slump and start a winning streak as they will start a 10-game road trip on Friday. They will play four games in Kansas City, three in Seattle and three in Oakland. Chase Whitley will get the start on Friday against the Royals, who are 29-31 after winning three out of four against the St. Louis Cardinals.
On June 5, the Yankees are six games out of first in the AL East, as the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays are ahead of them in the standings. The would not have the record they have without Tanaka, who is giving the Yankees more than even they could have expected.