Tanaka’s dominance and Gardner’s homer led to a win in the series opener against Toronto

Brett Gardner running during spring training last year.

Brett Gardner running during spring training last year.

Masahiro Tanaka won his American League leading 11th game and lowered his ERA to an American League leading 1.99 in the 3-1 series- opening Yankees win over the Toronto Blue Jays. Tanaka allowed only one run and five hits while striking out 10 in six innings.

Tanaka is the 5th pitcher with five 10+ strikeout games in his first 14 starts. The others to do so were Hideo Nomo, Mark Prior, Tom Griffin and Doc Gooden. He has also thrown a quality start, which is throwing six or more innings while allowing three or fewer runs, in all of his 14 starts this season. The only other pitcher that had that streak of quality starts was Steve Rogers in 1973.

The win over the first place Blue Jays was the 14th straight home win by the Yankees over the Blue Jays. Joe Girardi was also able to win his 600th game as the manager of the Yankees, with the help of Tanaka, Brett Gardner and the bullpen. Gardner’s two-run homer (his 6th) to right in the third inning gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead that they would not lose.

Gardner was asked his thoughts on Girardi’s milestone after the game. “He has been great,” Gardner said. “He knows what it takes to get us ready for the game. He is fun to play for.”

The Yankees scored their first two runs off of Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman, who was making only his fourth start in the big leagues. He grew up in Medford on Long Island, which is about an hour from Yankee Stadium, so he was definitely nervous pitching for the first time at Yankee Stadium. In only 3.2 innings, he allowed four hits, including Gardner’s homer, and three walks to raise his pitch count all the way up to 98.

Later in the game, the Yankees scored an insurance run off of reliever Aaron Loup. Mark Teixeira’s liner up the middle easily scored Derek Jeter from third to make the score 3-1. That was Jeter’s 1,900th career run scored, which puts him in 10th place on the all-time list. Alex Rodriguez has scored 1,919 runs, which means that Jeter should be in ninth place by the end of the season.

Kelly Johnson, who is on a four-game hitting streak, had two hits in the game. Jeter was the other Yankee who had two hits. Gardner now has only two fewer homers than he hit all of last season.

Tanaka was able to strikeout the side swinging in the fifth inning, as he was able to rebound very well from allowing a homer by Jose Reyes to leadoff the game. Dellin Betances, who pitched a perfect seventh and eighth, had an impressive sequence where he froze the dangerous Jose Bautista with a curve for a strikeout and then his next pitch was a 99 MPH fastball to the cleanup hitter, Edwin Encarnacion. Even though he has been a reliever the whole season, Betances’s 68 strikeouts are second on the team and 27th in the AL.

David Robertson was able record his 17th save of the season after allowing one hit and two strikeouts. He is tied for third in the AL in saves, and Robertson has struck out 42 of the 87 batters he has faced since coming off of the disabled list.

“I don’t think it’s fair to expect that from anyone,” Girardi said. “Tanaka has been remarkable and he has been a huge part of our success. He continues to grind out starts and give us distance. He fielded his position well, which helped him too.”

With the win the Yankees are now 3.5 games behind the Blue Jays, and Chase Whitley will try to get their deficit to 2.5 games as he will get the start in the second game of the series that starts at 7:05 p.m. on Wednesday. Whitley is coming off his best outing of the season as he allowed two runs, didn’t allow a walk for his fourth consecutive start and pitched 7.2 innings for the first time. He has 24 strikeouts and only three walks in 33.2 innings since replacing the injured CC Sabathia.

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