Brett Gardner, Cole Figueroa and Masahiro Tanaka led the Yankees to a 6-2 win over the Athletics

Cole Figueroa (Getty)

Cole Figueroa (Getty Images)

Adam Warren struck out Billy Butler on three pitches to end the game and give the Yankees a 6-2 win over the Oakland Athletics in the series finale. Masahiro Tanaka pitched like an ace as he threw 7.2 innings and retired the final 19 batters that he faced.

Tanaka threw 114 pitches, which is more than any Yankee pitcher had thrown this season, and only allowed one earned run (two overall) on two hits while striking out six. He struggled in the second but bounced back very well after that.

“I thought he used his slider well and thought he used his split well,” Joe Girardi said. “His split is really important for him and he used it effectively today. The second inning was long and he became pretty economical after that. I like where he is at physically.”

Billy Butler and Mark Canha hit RBI doubles off of Tanaka in the second, but after Canha’s double to deep right center, Tanaka’s improved location of his pitches led to him retiring the next 19 batters that he faced, which included retiring the final two on strikeouts. He will now go into the All-Star break with momentum as had previously made three subpar starts.

Brett Gardner, who was named to the All-Star Game in the middle of the game as a replacement for the injured Alex Gordon, hit a homer in the first inning and was 3-5 during the game. Gardner’s three hits brought his average up to .303, which is 10th in the American League.

His 62 runs scored are fourth most in the league, his .381 on-base percentage is seventh in the AL, his 15 steals are fourth most in the league and his 21 doubles are tied for eighth. This means that he is top 10 in five different categories in the league.

“It was definitely a surprise,” Gardner said. “It looks like I know what I am doing next week. I am looking forward to it. I am excited to go represent the Yankees and represent the American League.”

Gardner, who has 10 homers this season after hitting 17 last season, is hitting with more power thanks to a different approach. “I am being a little more aggressive and trying to be more consistent at the plate.”

“I am really happy for Gardner,” Girardi said. “He is so important for our team. He has learned how to pull the ball, and that is advantageous in our ballpark.”

Cole Figueroa, who was the third baseman today, made his Yankees’ debut as he was called up from Triple-A Scranton to replace Jose Pirela on the roster. The Yankees brought him up because starting third baseman Chase Headley missed his second straight game due to inflammation in his right knee. Figueroa had an outstanding first game with the Bronx Bombers as he was 2-4 with two doubles and two runs scored in addition to being perfect in the field.

Mark Teixeira tied the game at two in the third inning with a single to right to score Ellsbury, which was his American League-leading 62nd RBI of the season. In the fourth inning off of Athletics starter Jesse Chavez, Jacoby Ellsbury, who was playing in his second game after coming off of the disabled list, singled to right to score Stephen Drew and Figueroa. That single broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Yankees the lead for good.

In the eighth inning, Figueroa hit his second double of the game on a ball that bounced over the US Trust Sign in right for a ground rule double. Chris Young and Figueroa both scored in the 8th as a result of Marcus Semien’s throwing error to first on Jacoby Ellsbury’s grounder. That was his 28th error of the season, which is eight more than any shortstop in baseball. He has made one error in every game of the series.

The Yankees are 33-6 when scoring five or more runs this season. With the win, the Yankees (46-39, 3-game lead in AL East) won the series 2-1 against Oakland and will go into their weekend series before the All-Star break in Boston against the surging Red Sox with momentum. The Red Sox have won their previous four series and nine of their last 12 games.

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