Tanaka gem ends home losing streak
It took six tries, but the Yankees finally guaranteed themselves another winning season at Yankee Stadium. At the same time, they saved some face in a long, exasperating weekend against the front-running Blue Jays.
Sunday’s 5-0 triumph behind a determined Masahiro Tanaka was the Yankees’ 41st victory at the Stadium this year, which extended their stretch of consecutive winning seasons at home to 24 (since 1992). It is the longest current winning streak in the major leagues and the most since the Yankees’ big-league record of 47 winning seasons at home from 1918 through 1964.
It ended a five-game losing streak at the Stadium and followed a twin killing Saturday in a miserably long day. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before the game that the team needed a well-pitched game more than anything, and Tanaka gave him all he could have wanted and more.
The Japanese righthander shut down the Blue Jays on four hits and no walks over seven innings and 108 pitches. Tanaka has given up only one earned run in 16 innings against Toronto’s powerful lineup this year.
“Location” was Girardi’s response for why Tanaka has done so well against a Blue Jays team that leads the American League in runs and home runs. “He was down in the zone all day. He had a good splitter, a good slider and worked in a cutter as well.”
Tanaka also helped himself with a pickoff play at second base that nailed Kevin Pillar, who had doubled with one out in the second inning. It was a rough weekend for Pillar, who was 1-for-13 at the plate and ran into his teammate, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who is out indefinitely due to a small crack in his left shoulder blade.
There were contributions all around in the Yankees’ victory that moved them back to 3 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the AL East and ended a personal seven-game winning streak by former National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.
Dustin Ackley, who joined the Yankees in a trade from Seattle only to land on the disabled list because of a back ailment, knocked in three runs with a sacrifice fly in the second and his first home run in pinstripes, a two-run shot in the fourth.
Girardi decided to start Ackley at first base when he found out that Greg Bird, who has played there primarily since the season-ending injury to Mark Teixeira, had faced a knuckleball pitcher only once in the minor leagues. Ackley, on the other hand, had some success against Dickey and continued it Sunday. In 13 career at-bats against Dickey, Ackley is batting .462 with two home runs.
“The simple approach is better,” Ackley said of hitting knuckleball pitchers. “He was running the ball inside. I just looked for the first good one over the plate. The important thing is to get out in front and not stay back and let the knuckleball move too much.”
Alex Rodriguez, who was honored by the Yankees in a pregame ceremony for his 3,000th hit earlier in the season, showed some hustle in the second scoring from third base on a sacrifice fly by Didi Gregorius. A-Rod also drove in a run with a two-out double in the eighth that ended Dickey’s outing.
Brett Gardner, who had a huge day at the plate Saturday (4-for-9, three home runs, seven RBI) took a 0-for-4 collar Sunday but made two outstanding running catches in left field to take away potential extra-base hits from Justin Smoak in the seventh and Matt Hague in the ninth.
“Everybody is relieved that we are going on the road [to Tampa Bay] with confidence,” Ackley said.