Yanks escape last place with 4th straight victory
Goodbye, last place. For the first time in nearly a month, the Yankees are no longer at the bottom of the pack in the American League East. Their 5-1 victory Saturday at Oakland paired with Toronto’s 5-3 loss at Minneapolis pushed the Yankees over the Blue Jays in the standings.
The Yankees’ fourth straight victory, their longest winning streak of the year, was their third in a row over the Athletics in paying the A’s back for their sweep of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium last month. The Yankees can go one better with another victory Sunday in the series and trip finale.
It has been a pleasant trek for the Yanks, who stumbled at the beginning of it with two losses in Phoenix, but they have come back on the strength of their starting pitching. Saturday marked the fourth straight game in which a Yankees starter allowed only one run in six or more innings of work.
Masahiro Tanaka went seven innings Saturday, topping the six-inning efforts of predecessors CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Nathan Eovaldi. The weak link in the rotation has been Michael Pineda, who will try to turn his fortunes around Sunday.
Tanaka allowed one run on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia in the fifth. Two innings earlier facing Valencia with the bases full and one out, Tanaka struck him out looking and ended the threat by getting Khris Davis on a ground ball to third base. Tanaka walked two batters and struck out four in ending a five-start streak of no-decisions. For the season, Tanaka is 2-0 with seven no-decisions and a 3.24 ERA.
This was Tanaka’s third career start against the A’s. He is 3-0 with a 1.31 ERA in 20 2/3 innings. Saturday’s victory was his first start at Oakland and continued his success on the road where he is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in four starts this season. For his career, Tanaka is 13-6 with a 3.04 ERA in games away from Yankee Stadium.
A four-run fourth inning off Athletics starter Sean Manaea (1-2, 7.62 ERA) gave Tanaka all the offensive support he would require and once again allowed Joe Girardi in his 1,500th major league game as a manager to rest his three power relievers, although Aroldis Chapman did warm up in the ninth when the A’s got a runner on base with none out against Nick Goody, who worked two scoreless frames.
Carlos Beltran drove in the first run of the fourth inning for his seventh RBI of the series. After a sacrifice fly by Aaron Hicks, Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre call-up Rob Refsnyder doubled to right-center for two more runs. Refsnyder played right field for the first six innings. He began his career in the outfield but was moved to second base in the minors and also played some third base during spring training but is now back in his original spot and seems more comfortable. Refsnyder was on a tear this month at SWB, batting .400 with five doubles, two home runs and five RBI in 14 games and 55 at-bats in May. For the season, he is hitting .293 with six doubles, two homers and 10 RBI in 34 games and 133 at-bats. Refsnyder batted .302 in 43 at-bats with the Yankees in two separate call-up stints last year.
Starlin Castro, who had three hits, doubled in a run with two out in the seventh inning to Chase Manaea. Beltran singled leading off the eighth for his 2,495th career hit to tie Mickey Vernon for 99th place on the all-time list. This was the 11th game in which Beltran served as the designated hitter since Alex Rodriguez went on the 15-day disabled list. In those starts, Beltran has hit .356 with nine runs, eight doubles, five home runs and 17 RBI in 45 at-bats. The Yankees are 9-2 in those games and 12-6 since A-Rod went on the DL.
All of which has helped the Yankees get out of the AL East cellar. They had been in last place for 27 consecutive days, a period covering 25 games since April 24. They do not want to go back and hope to take that message to the Blue Jays when they come to the Stadium next week for a three-game set.