Masahiro Tanaka dominated for his second consecutive start since coming off of the DL

New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka reacts after second baseman Brian Roberts made a play to get out Baltimore Orioles' Ryan Flaherty to end the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 9, 2014, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Tanaka reacts after Brian Roberts made a play on April 9, 2014, at Yankee Stadium. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

On Tuesday night, the Yankees (33-25) beat the Washington Nationals, 6-1, at Yankee Stadium in the first game of the series. The Yankees have won seven games in a row (and eight of their last nine) and their starting pitchers have impressively allowed two runs or less in all seven of those games. That is a recipe for success.

Masahiro Tanaka had his first start at Yankee Stadium since coming off of the disabled list and was able to outpitch Nationals ace Max Scherzer. Tanaka threw seven innings and allowed five hits, one earned run and zero walks. He had six strikeouts and retired the side in order in the first, second and third innings. Scherzer, who had a 1.85 ERA coming into the game, allowed four earned runs and eight hits in 6.2 innings pitched.

The only run that the Nationals scored off of Tanaka was a Bryce Harper homer in the fourth inning. Tanaka has had excellent command since coming off of the DL since he has 15 strikeouts and no walks in his two starts, and he has allowed one run in both of his starts lowering his ERA from 3.22 to 2.48.

Since coming off of the DL, he has pitched like he did during his first 16 starts last season when he had a Cy Young caliber first three months with a 2.10 ERA (11-3). He would later go on the disabled list for 2.5 months due to a partially torn UCL after two ineffective starts. Tanaka and Michael Pineda (3.33 ERA) combine to form a reliable, dominant and elite top of the rotation that could give the team an edge in a playoff series.

Tanaka incredibly threw 63 of his 87 pitches for strikes and proved to not let pitching at Yankee Stadium get to him.

I think he enjoys the stage,” Joe Girardi said. “I do. I think that is one of the reasons he came to New York. I think he likes the competition and the excitement of pitching here. I think he likes it.”

The Yankees scored two of their six runs on home runs. Stephen Drew hit a homer in the third to give the team a 1-0 lead and then hit another solo blast in the eighth to make the score 6-1. This was the second time in his last four games that he has hit two homers in a game and he hit a solid .292 in June to improve his average from .143 to .175. Drew’s average is still very low for an everyday player, but his nine homers are the second most among second basemen in the American League.

Brian McCann hit a single to right in the seventh to score Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez and later in the inning Carlos Beltran singled to left to send Mark Teixeira home to make the score 5-1.

Ramon Flores, who scored a run in the seventh on a fielder’s choice by Rodriguez, went 3-4 to raise his average to .269. Flores was sent back down to Triple-A Scranton before Wednesday’s game to make room for infielder Brendan Ryan. Flores, who has a strong arm in left field as he has thrown out two runners trying to score at home in his seven games, is arguably more valuable to the Yankee than Ryan while Jacoby Ellsbury in on the DL, but Ryan is back on the roster because he is healthy and they feel they have to use him since they are paying him a lot more.

Ryan is starting Wednesday’s 1:05 p.m. game at shortstop giving Didi Gregorius a day off. Nathan Eovaldi will try to get his sixth win of the season and give the Yankees their eighth win in a row.

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