Tanaka allowed only two hits in seven innings as the Yankees pounded the Rays 9-0

Masahiro Tanaka pitching last season against the Blue Jays.

Masahiro Tanaka pitching last season against the Blue Jays.

The Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 9-0, on Saturday night at Tropicana Field in what was their best all around game of the season. Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven shutout innings in what was by far his best start of the season.

In Tanaka’s seven shutout innings he struck out eight batters and didn’t have any walks in only 85 pitches. He threw 58 of his pitches for strikes and only allowed two hits. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Tanaka allowed a leadoff double to Brandon Guyer but he was able to rebound to strikeout Rene Rivera and David DeJesus and then Steven Souza Jr grounded out to third.

After Tanaka allowed a single to leadoff the game he then retired 15 consecutive Rays, which included getting the dangerous Evan Longoria out two times. He has improved in each of his three starts this season as he allowed four earned runs in his first start, three in his second and then zero in this one. He looked like he did during his dominating rookie season.

“I think I was able to adjust well and get results,” Tanaka said. “The way that I was pitching the mechanics worked well. I am happy with the results. I liked my fastball in particular.” Joe Girardi thought that all of Tanaka’s pitches were working well and isn’t concerned about last year’s injury anymore.

The Bronx Bombers scored their most runs since they beat the Boston Red Sox 14-4 during Tanaka’s last start. It was a pitchers duel between Tanaka and Jake Odorizzi until the sixth inning when Brian McCann’s triple to deep right scored Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez. McCann’s drive came about a foot from being a homer and he had a triple since it hit an aluminum part of the wall and went nearly back to the infield.

Then, in the seventh inning, Gregorio Petit hit a sac fly to score Chase Headley, Brett Gardner singled to left to score Stephen Drew, Mark Teixeira hit a sac fly to right to score Jacoby Ellsbury and then Chris Young hit his third career grand slam to deep left to send Gardner, Rodriguez and McCann home.

Young’s homer essentially sealed the win for the Yankees at Tropicana Field. After getting three hits in four at-bats, Young is now hitting a solid .276 with an impressive three homers and eight RBIs. He deserves to play more in right field instead of Carlos Beltran since the soon to be 38-year-old is only hitting .184 with zero homers. Young has much more power in his bat, is more consistent right now and is just as reliable as Beltran in the outfield.

You’re just trying to have a good at-bat,” Young said afterwards. “A grand slam is great, but it’s not what’s in your mind..I was just trying to grind, battle, trying to work a walk or base hit. And he happened to leave one up for me.”

The win ensured their first series win of the season and gives them a chance for their first sweep when Michael Pineda pitches against the Rays on Saturday afternoon. Pineda, how had a sub-par performance in his last start as he allowed five earned runs to the Baltimore Orioles, has the potential to form the best No. 1 and No. 2 combo with Tanaka in the AL East.

They are likely already the best number one and two starters in the division based on what they did last season. Pineda has greatly improved his change to go with his very good slider and fastball and in his first start he only allowed two earned runs in six innings to the Toronto Blue Jays. In his seven away games last season he had a 2.21 ERA and in his start at Tropicana Field he allowed a run in 5.1 innings.

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