Bullpen’s four hitless innings bail out Tanaka

The first meeting between the top offenses in the American League last year turned out to be a pitcher’s game. The Blue Jaus, who overcame the Yankees to win the AL East title in 2015, could not overcome the Yanks’ bullpen Tuesday night.

After Masahiro Tanaka struggled through five innings, four Yankees relievers were lights out in a 3-2 victory at Rogers Centre. Tanaka allowed only two runs and three hits, but four walks along with six strikeouts shot up his pitch count as once again a Yankees starter did not get past the sixth inning. The bullpen is doing a yeoman’s job, but it can’t pitch four innings per game without wearing down.

Johnny Barbato got his first major league victory. After pitching a shutout sixth inning, Barbato benefit from the Yankees unlocking a 2-2 score in the seventh on a bloop single by Jacoby Ellsbury, who atoned for his wayward tracking of a drive by Jose Bautista in the third that became a two-run double.

Chasen Shreve got the first two outs of the seventh before walking Josh Donaldson, who stole second base against Dellin Betances, but the 6-for-8 righthander got the last laugh with a strikeout of Bautista on a full-count breaking ball. Betances got two more strikeouts in a 1-2-3 eighth before turning matters over to Andrew Miller, who added a perfect ninth with two more punchouts.

The quartet of Yankees relievers combined for four hitless innings with five strikeouts against the league’s most dangerous lineup. As for the offense, it used some small ball to manufacture the deciding run. After a leadoff single by Chase Headley in the seventh off Brett Cecil and a walk to Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius’ perfect sacrifice bunt set it up for Ellsbury, who dunked a single into left field.

Also in the middle of the action much of the night was Brian McCann. The catcher did his usual solid job behind the plate and took a hard foul ball off his left foot in the fifth inning that left him hobbling the rest of the night. Fortunately, Mac did not have to run hard in his at-bat in the sixth because he got all of a 3-2 fastball all from Alex Sanchez for a home run to right field that tied the score. McCann had scored the Yankees’ first run in the second inning. He was on second base when Sanchez treated him like Rickey Henderson by trying to pick him off only to throw the ball into center field. Mac scored from third on an infield out by Castro, who picked up his ninth RBI in his sixth game. McCann was on base again in the eighth with a single and limped to third base on one of Headley’s two hits. Mac finally came out of the game in the bottom of the ninth as Austin Romine took over back of the plate.

Blood had to be drained from McCann’s foot. He was to get x-rays after the game. The Yankees cannot afford to lose him for any length of time.

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