Results tagged ‘ Masahiro Tanaka ’

Tanaka’s forearm injury will cost him next start

Just when they were shaking off the negative effects of being swept in a four-game series by the Red Sox with two victories over the Rays to pull to 2 1/2 games of the second American League Wild Card slot, the Yankees were dealt a blow before Thursday night’s series finale at St. Petersburg, Fla., a 2-0 loss to the Rays.

Masahiro Tanaka will not be able to make his next scheduled start, which would have been Monday night at Toronto, the last road game of the season for the Yankees against the club now holding the first Wild Card position. Pitching that night would have put Tanaka in place to make one more start the final weekend of the regular season against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Now if Tanaka recovers in time as he is expected to, that start in the last homestand will be his last of the regular season as well.

Tanaka reported tightness in his right forearm after Wednesday night’s 11-5 victory in which he gave up four home runs in a game for the first time in his career. The victory improved his record to 14-4 with a league-leading 3.07 ERA that has him in consideration for the AL Cy Young Award, but being sidelined hurts his chances.

An MRI exam revealed that Tanaka, who has pitched 199 2/3 innings this season in his 31 starts, has a small flexor mass strain in his right forearm. Yankees manager Joe Girardi termed the ailment “slight” and that it had no connection to the righthander’s ulnar collateral ligament.

Tanaka will not throw at all for five days. The Yankees are hopeful that a rested Tanaka will be on schedule to start one of the final three games of the season against the Orioles. Girardi did not name a starter to take Tanaka’s place Monday night at Toronto.

It certainly puts a crimp in the Yankees’ late-season charge to lose the staff ace for an important start. The Yankees are 23-8 in Tanaka’s starts.

The 11th shutout loss of the season hurt the Yankees’ chances to continue to move up the standings. Luis Cessa gave up a first-inning run on three singles and not another until Corey Dickerson homered with two out in the sixth.  The Yankees kept leaving runners on base in every inning but one and stranded 11 overall while going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Another Betances breakdown spoils trip opener

For quite a spell Thursday night it looked as if the Yankees were going to shake off Wednesday’s deflating loss to the Dodgers and make a lot of headway in the standings. It seemed all set up for them with leads of 4-0 and 5-1, but try to remember the game was played at Fenway Park.

The Yankees stopped scoring after the fourth inning and so they did not exactly put the Red Sox away despite seven solid innings from Masahiro Tanaka. A solo homer by David Ortiz in the eighth off Adam Warren cut the Yankees’ lead to 5-2.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi had hoped to stay away from Dellin Betances in the ninth but was forced to bring him in when Blake Parker hit Chris Young with a pitch with one out. For the second straight game, however, Betances could not get it done. Two-out hits by Ortiz and Mookie Betts made it a one-run game. Betances then fell behind 3-1 in the count to Hanley Ramirez, who drove the next pitch over the center field wall for a walk-off, three-run home run.

Oh, does this one hurt. A victory would have lifted the Yankees past the Tigers and one game behind the Orioles for the second Wild Card slot not to mention moving to three games of the first-place Red Sox in the American League East and give Boston second second thoughts about its security.

For a team that banged out 14 hits and had four other base runners on three walks and a hit batter, the Yankees should have scored more than five runs. They were 5-for-16 (.313) with runners in scoring position which is good, but they stranded 12 runners, half of them over the final five innings when they were 1-for-8 (.125) with runners in scoring position.

It was the fifth blown save for Betances, whose ERA soared to 2.83, and a tough no-decision for Tanaka, who is 6-0 with a 1.86 ERA in his past eight starts.

And it was another Yankee-killing game for Ortiz, who had three RBI and has six home runs and 11 RBI against them this year. Ortiz’s 34th home run of the season was career No. 537 to move past Mickey Mantle into 17th place on the all-time list. Ortiz has 53 career homers against the Yankees.

Butler contributes right away for Yankees

Billy Butler did not waste any time to get into the swing of things in his first game for the Yankees. Less than two hours after arriving in Boston while the Yanks were taking batting practice, Butler hit a sacrifice fly in his first at-bat Thursday night.

Butler, who was released by the Athletics a week ago, was signed by the Yankees, who were in search for a right-handed hitter after rookie Aaron Judge had to be placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a strained right oblique. The Yanks have been vulnerable to left-handed pitching all season.

Butler, a designated hitter and first baseman, had his best years with the Royals and had a hard time of it in Oakland since signing a three-year contract as a free agent after the 2014 season. He recently got into a fight with A’s teammate Danny Valencia, which greased the skids for Butler in Oakland.

The Yankees faced a left-handed starter in Eduardo Rodriguez, who had been tough on them in the past but failed to get past the third inning Thursday night. The Yanks struck for two runs in the first on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury, a double by Gary Sachez, an RBI single by Starlin Castro and the sac fly by Butler.

They added two more runs in the third with Butler getting his second RBI on a single that followed a double by Castro, who rebounded from his costly error Wednesday against the Dodgers with a four-hit, two-RBI game at Fenway Park. A double by Didi Gregorius and a single by Chase Headley made the score 4-0 and chased Rodriguez, who entered the game with a 4-1 record and 1.88 ERA in his career against the Yankees and was 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA against them this year.

The multitude of early-inning runs were a blessing to Masahiro Tanaka, who navigated his way through the Red Sox batting order without his best stuff. For example, he walked two batters in the third inning, which was twice as many as he walked in the entire month of August. The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out that inning, but Tanaka limited the damage to a sacrifice fly by David Ortiz.

The Yankees nullified that run the next inning on a two-out, RBI single by Castro. Tanaka pitched seven innings but did not strike out a single batter. He did get 18 of his 21 outs in the infield, 15 of them on ground balls.

Yankees roll seven, shoot for sweep

Something old, something new.

It is this combination that has sustained the Yankees in their winning streak that reached seven games Saturday with a 5-1 victory over the Rays. Remember about two weeks ago I wrote that the Yankees needed to do more than just win series, taking two of three games here and two of three there. They need to go on a run the way the Royals worked themselves into contention with a nine-game winning streak.

Well, here it is, Yankees fans. This is the Yanks’ longest winning streak since a seven-gamer May 1-9 of last year. They are a season-best 11 games over .500, have won 13 of their past 14 games, 20 of their past 29 and are 24-13 since the non-waiver trading deadline of Aug. 1.

The Yankees got a strong start from Masahiro Tanaka (13-4, 3.04 ERA), who gave up one run and five hits with 10 strikeouts, and a combination of old (Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury) and new (Gary Sanchez and Rob Refsnyder) to remain on the heels of the Orioles and the Tigers in the race for the second Wild Card slot in the playoffs. With Baltimore and Detroit opposing each other Saturday night, the Yanks were guaranteed to be no more than one game behind.

But that is not all. With the Red Sox losing to the Blue Jays, the Yankees are only three games out of first place. Who could have imagined this happening back in that last weekend in July when the Yankees were stuck at .500 (52-52) after getting swept in a three-game series at Tropicana Field.

Sunday the Yankees have a chance to sweep those same Rays, this time in a four-game set. They have swept two others four-game series this year, against the Angels and the Athletics, and have already won their past eight four-game series.

Tanaka gave the Yankees something they have lacked from a starter lately — length. Manager Joe Girardi had used 35 pitchers over the previous six games in the winning streak, an average of nearly six pitchers per game. This is less taxing on the staff at this time of year when rosters have expanded. Girardi used to beef about September games with uneven roster numbers, but you do not hear him complaining now as his team is trying to pull off an epic comeback.

After giving up a home run to Bobby Wilson and hitting a batter in the eighth, Tanaka came out for Adam Warren, who also plunked a batter before getting a huge double-play grounder from Evan Longoria.

Rays starter Chris Archer, who has been tough on the Yankees (5-2 entering play), fell to 8-18 essentially because of the first three hitters in the lineup. Gardner singled leading off the sixth of what was then a scoreless game.

Ellsbury wears out Archer and did so again with his eighth home run of the season. Sanchez followed with another bomb, his 13th. The trio was at it again in the eighth, this time against lefthander Enny Romero. Gardner singled, Ellsbury doubled and Sanchez was able to reach the first pitch of what was supposed to be the start of an intentional walk for a sacrifice fly to the warning track. Didi Gregorius added another sac fly.

Refsnyder was 0-for-3 but made an important defensive play, a lunging catch in right field to keep the game scoreless in the sixth.

The something old-something new formula had worked in Friday night’s marathon with Sanchez hitting his 12th homer and Mark Teixeira crushing his 11th career grand slam.

Tanaka has won each of his past six decisions over a seven-start stretch since Aug. 7. He is 5-0 with a 2.42 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings seven starts against the Rays, with the Yankees winning each of those starts.

Sanchez is one of five players in major league history with 13 home runs in his first 35 games (also Wally Joyner, Mike Jacobs, Kevin Maas and Wally Berger). Ellsbury is a career .559 hitter against Archer in 34 at-bats. Gardner has multiple hits in each of his past three games with an at-bat (6-for-12). The Yankees are 11-1 when Gardner and Ellsbury each collect at least two hits in the same game.

It is getting awfully tight in the AL East

After playing .500 ball (3-3) on their trip to Kansas City and Baltimore, the Yankees got off to a strong start on the next to last homestand of the season. A 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays kept the Yankees 3 1/2 games behind the Orioles for the second wild card playoff berth and also moved them to 5 1/2 games of first place in the American League East.

That is still a lot of ground to make up with 26 games remaining in the regular season, but all but three of them are against teams in their own division, including six against the Blue Jays, whose hold on first place is teetering. The Red Sox, who had a late afternoon game at San Diego, were in position to tie Toronto for the division lead, and the Orioles are only two games back. It is getting tight in the division in the final month.

After doing the near impossible by failing to get a single extra-base hit in three games over the weekend at hitter-friendly Camden Yards, the Yankees broke out of that spell Monday at Yankee Stadium.

Jacoby Ellsbury ended the 27-inning, 89-at-bat extra-base hitless streak with a two-run home run in the first inning off knuckleballer R.A. Dickey that erased a 1-0 Yankees deficit. That was the first of three hits in the game for Ellsbury, who did not start in Sunday’s series finale at Baltimore.

Rookie first baseman Tyler Austin doubled leading off the third and scored on a one-out single by Ellsbury. Austin got another double with two out in the fourth, and that one sent home two runners and essentially ended the day for Dickey, who got the final out that inning but did not return for the fifth.

The return of extra-base power provided sufficient support for Masahiro Tanaka, who improved his record to 12-4. Although he told reporters after the game that he did not have his best stuff, Tanaka allowed only two runs over 6 1/3 innings. He did give up seven hits and three walks, but the Blue Jays were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position against him and 2-for-9 for the game.

Toronto also ran into some outs. Catcher Gary Sanchez threw out Melvin Upton Jr. trying to steal second base in the fourth. Jose Bautista inexplicably tried to go from first to third on a single to left by Edwin Encarnacion the next inning and was easy prey for Brett Gardner for the third out.

The Yankees sweated through the seventh inning when the Jays loaded the bases on three walks, one by Tanaka and two by rookie Jonathan Holder. Encarnacion’s third hit of the game was a single to right off another rookie, Ben Heller, that scored two runs. Tommy Layne, the Yanks’ fourth pitcher of the inning, prevented further damage by retiring pinch hitter Russell Martin on an infield fly.

Tyler Clippard retired the side in order in the eighth, and Dellin Betances did the same in the ninth for his ninth save in 10 tries since becoming the closer July 31. Betances has allowed only two earned runs in 30 1/3 innings (0.59 ERA) at the Stadium this year.

In 21 appearances since the All-Star break, Betances has given up two earned runs in 22 innings (0.82 ERA) with eight hits allowed, 10 walks and 34 strikeouts. He leads major-league relievers in K’s with 114. Betances led all relievers in strikeouts the previous two seasons with 131 last year and 135 in 2014. This is the first season in Yankees history in which three pitchers had at least nine saves apiece. Andrew Miller, now with the Indians, also had nine, and Aroldis Chapman, now with the Cubs, had 20.

Three walks were unusual for Tanaka, considering that he walked only one batter total in six August starts covering 39 innings. The Japanese righthander is 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA over his past six starts and has won five consecutive decisions for the first time since May 25 through June 17, 2014. Tanaka, who has a career record of 6-3 with a 2.34 ERA against the Blue Jays, is 4-1 with a 2.14 ERA in nine starts totaling 59 innings against AL East clubs this year.

The Yankees have scored exactly five runs in five of their past seven games and nine of 15 since Aug. 20.

Judge gets back to making contact

In earning American League Player of the Week honors each of the past two weeks, catcher Gary Sanchez has made it seem easy to break into the major leagues. Conversely, outfielder Aaron Judge has been an example of how tough it can be for a player to make the leap from minors to majors.

Judge got off to an impressive start with a monster home run off to center field at Yankee Stadium in his first major-league at-bat and home runs in each of his first two games. But the going got rough after that.

Entering play Tuesday night at Kansas City, Mo., Judge was in stretches of 4-for-30 (.133) and 2-for-25 (.080). He had struck out 22 times in 46 at-bats, at least once in 14 of his 15 games for the Yankees and had multiple strikeouts in seven games.

With a player who stands 6-foot-7, the strike zone is much larger than most players. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has displayed patience by playing Judge regularly and near the bottom of the lineup to relieve pressure.

The Yankees can live with the strikeouts if Judge does what he did Tuesday night by clocking a two-run home run in the second inning off Edinson Volquez to provide Mashiro Tanaka an early lead.

With a single in the third inning, Didi Gregorius extended his hitting streak to 11 games, the longest for the Yankees this year. Brian McCann had hit in 10 straight twice. Before the rain delay, left fielder Brett Gardner came to Tanaka’s rescue with two terrific plays. He made an accurate throw to second base to cut down Alcides Escobar trying for a double and followed that with a leaping catch at the wall of a drive by Christian Colon.

Congratulations to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfielder Ben Gamel, who was named the 2016 International League Player of the Year. Gamel, 24, has a slash line of .309/.366/.422 with 78 runs, 26 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 51 RBI and 19 stolen bases in 115 games and 479 at-bats for the RailRiders. Gamel leads the IL in runs and ranks third in hits, fifth in steals and sixth in batting average. Gamel was one of four RailRiders to make the IL Postseason All-Star Team, along with Sanchez, Judge and second baseman Donovan Solano. Al Pedrique was named IL Manager of the Year for leading the RailRiders to an 84-52 (.618) record and a postseason berth.

The Yankees added two more prospects with the acquisition of outfielder Tito Polo and pitcher Stephen Tarpley, the players to be named that completed the Aug. 1 trade of pitcher Ivan Nova to the Pirates.

Polo, 22, hit .289 with 86 runs, 17 doubles, three triples, 16 home runs, 65 RBI, 37 stolen bases, a .360 on-base percentage and an .811 OPS (on-base plus slugging) in 109 games and 439 at-bats combined between two Class A teams, Bradenton (55 games) and West Virginia (54) this season and was selected as a South Atlantic League Midseason All-Star. Originally signed by Pittsburgh as a non-drafted free agent March 12, 2012, the right-handed hitter led all Pirates minor leaguers with 46 stolen bases in 2015. In 355 career minor league games and 1,249 at-bats, the San Andres Islas, Colombia, native has hit .271 with 223 runs, 55 doubles, 15 triples, 26 homers, 158 RBI, 130 stolen bases and a .352 on-base percentage.

Tarpley, 23, was 6-4 with a 4.32 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 100 innings in 20 starts with Bradenton. Over four minor league seasons, the lefthander has a 20-14 record with a 3.32 ERA and 280 strikeouts in 303 1/3 innings in 60 games (59 starts). Tapley was originally selected by the Orioles in the third round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft and was acquired by the Pirates, along with left-handed pitcher Steven Brault, in exchange for outfielder Travis Snider Jan. 27, 2015.

Another Tanaka gem gets Girardi 800th Yankees win

Joe Girardi has been insisting since Alex Rodriguez was released nearly two weeks ago that the Yankees “have a shot,” which has been his way of saying his team can contend for a playoff berth. In chalking up his 800th victory as Yankees manager Wednesday at Seattle, Girardi got his club closer to that goal.

It is still a tall order, yet the Yanks’ 5-0 victory over the Mariners that completed a 4-2 trip to the West Coast was encouraging. The Yankees got back to their season-high four games over .500 and won a series over one of the club’s ahead of them in the race for the second wild-card slot.

Another contender, Baltimore, will come to Yankee Stadium for a three-game series starting Friday night to give the Yankees another opportunity to gain ground. All but three of the Yankees’ remaining 36 games are against American League East teams.

All year long, Girardi has fielded questions about how much better Masahiro Tanaka is when he gets extra rest. Well, Tanaka pitched on regular rest Wednesday and could not have been better. The righthander shut out the Mariners on six hits and a walk (his only one in his past 36 innings) with five strikeouts in winning his fourth straight start. Over that period Tanaka has pitched to a 1.63 ERA with 22 hits allowed, one walk and 25 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings. He also improve his career mark against the Mariners to 5-0 with a 1.95 ERA in 37 innings.

Tanaka’s pairing with Hisashi Iwakuma was a marquee event in Seattle that drew a crowd of 41,546 to Safeco Field and was broadcast to Japan. Tanaka prevailed against his former teammate for the second time this season. The other occasion was a 4-3 Yankees victory April 17 at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka and Iwakuma played together for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles from 2007-11.

It marked the 13th game in major league history featuring two Japanese-born starting pitchers and the sixth time that the Yankees have been involved in such a matchup, the most of any team. The Yanks are 5-1 in those games). It is the fifth such game involving Seattle. The Yankees and Mariners were also involved in the very first meeting between Japanese starters May 7, 1999 when Hideki Irabu and the Yankees defeated Mac Suzuki and the Mariners, 10-1, at the Stadium.

Tanaka’s catcher, rookie Gary Sanchez, continued his torrid hitting with a solo home run in the first inning that staked his pitcher to a 1-0 lead. Sachez also doubled and drew two intentional walks to complete a trip in which he batted .455 with three doubles, four home runs and five RBI in 22 at-bats.

There were contributions up and down the lineup as every Yankees player reached base. Tyler Austin ended a 0-for-13 slump with an RBI single that scored Aaron Judge, who had been hit by a pitch but ended up with a brutal game (three strikeouts, one ground into double play). Brett Gardner celebrated his 33rd birthday by driving in a run and scoring two. Ronald Torreyes singled, his ninth hit in 16 at-bats (.563) with four doubles, one homer and three RBI on the trip. Mark Teixeira drove in a run with a single and Starlin Castro with a sacrifice fly. Dellin Betances bailed Tyler Clippard out of a jam in the eighth and notched his sixth save.

All of that helped Girardi become the sixth manager in Yankees history to reach the 800-victory mark. He joined Joe McCarthy (1,460), Joe Torre (1,173), Casey Stengel (1,149), Miller Huggins (1,067) and Ralph Houk (944).

Rookie pair take the baton from A-Rod

On the first day of Yankees baseball without Alex Rodriguez, the franchise turned back the clock to honor its World Series title club of 20 years ago and then offered a glimpse into the future with a starting lineup containing some new names.

And those names, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge, made history right away. They became the first teammates to hit home runs in their first major league plate appearances in the same game. On top of that, they did so in successive at-bats.

Austin was still getting high-fived in the dugout after his drive into the lower right field stands when Judge smoked a thunderous clout that hit off the facade above the batter’s eye in dead center field well above Monument Park.


Tyler Austin (left) congratulated  for first major-league home run by teammate Aaron Judge, who followed suit minutes later (USA Today photo). 

“You can’t draw it up better than that,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We were even able to get both balls back. Austin’s bounced back onto the field, and Aaron’s went into the net. That was special.”

Each newcomer had a 2-for-4 game and displayed electric potential. Less than 24 hours after Yankees fans bid farewell to A-Rod, a new era was emerging before an enthusiastic crowd of 41,682 at Yankee Stadium. The paperwork of granting Rodriguez his unconditional release cleared a roster spot for Austin, who went to work immediately at first base for a resting Mark Teixeira.

After left fielder Brett Gardner, who has hit by a pitch Friday night, notified Girardi that he would not be a player Saturday, the Yankees got word to Judge, who was in upstate Rochester with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, around midnight. He made the lengthy drive down the Dewey Thruway, hit the city at around 6 a.m. and reported for duty four hours later.

It did not take either rookie long to get into the mix. Each touched the ball in the first inning, which I always think is important for a player making his big-league debut. It gets him in the game from the outset. Austin took a throw at first base from shortstop Didi Gregorius, and Judge made a nice play tracking a fly ball to right field by Evan Longoria.

Look, Friday night was a nice sentimental sendoff to a once great player, but after watching Rodriguez swing behind fastballs for the better part of a .200 season and hit even below that over the past seven calendar months, change was refreshing. Former Scranton teammates Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine were on the field as well. The Yankees are definitely showing off a new look.

Some veterans did their part in the 8-4 victory over the Rays. Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks and Gregorius, in the unfamiliar role as cleanup hitter, also went deep as the Yankees matched their season high for homers in a game with five. The amazing part of that is that none in the quintet is over the age of 26.

The outburst helped Masahiro Tanaka offset two home runs by Tampa Bay first baseman Phil Miller, which accounted for all the Rays’ runs. Tanaka was pretty effective against everybody else in a no-walk, eight-strikeout effort over seven innings.

Before the game, a reunion of the 1996 World Series champions brought some of that era’s favorites onto the field for a pregame ceremony in which players emerged from the gate between the visitors’ bullpen and Monument Park and walked to their former positions — Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, Wade Boggs, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Paul O’Neill, Jimmy Key, Cecil Fielder, David Cone, John Wetteland, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Girardi, among others. Arriving on carts were coaches Chris Chambliss, Willie Randolph and Jose Cardenal in one and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre with manager Joe Torre in another. There was also a tribute to the late Don Zimmer on the center field screen.

This was the unit that rebounded from the playoff loss to Seattle the year before to begin a dynastic run that led to in six American League pennants and four World Series titles over eight seasons. As Yankees fans witnessed Saturday, it has to start somewhere.

Teixeira not tempted to change his mind

Could a game like Sunday’s give Mark Teixeira second thoughts about retiring?

Nope.

The first baseman reiterated his stance from last week that he will step away from the game as a player at the end of the season.

“I love playing first base, but every year it gets tougher and tougher,” Teixeira said after the Yankees’ 3-2 victory over the Indians. “I only have a few of those [games] left.”

Perhaps it is his conscience being eased at making what he feels is the right decision, but Teixeira has appeared more comfortable in recent days than he has in recent years. Sunday, he was a central figure in a victory that unfortunately took second fiddle to the other slice of news, that Alex Rodriguez will end his playing career after Friday’s game when the Yankees return to Yankee Stadium for a weekend series against the Rays following a brief trip to Boston.

Teixeira drove in what proved the deciding run with an opposite-field double to left batting left-handed in the fifth inning. A more startling contribution came in the seventh when he beat speedy Francisco Lindor to first base with both sliding into the bag for the final out that prevented the Tribe from tying the score.

The Indians scored their first run in that inning and had runners on first and second with two out when Lindor hit a smoking grounder down the first base line. Teixeira gobbled it up, but reliever Adam Warren broke late for the bag and could not cover in time to beat Lindor. That was left to Teixeira, who got to his feet, hastened to the bag and then dived for it with his glove extended that hit the base seconds before the outstretched hand of an equalling diving Lindor.

“The first thing on a play like that is to make sure the ball doesn’t get down the line,” Teixeira said. “It would be two runs if that happens. I was hoping to flip it to Adam, but he wasn’t there. I knew I would have to dive because Lindor was coming down the line at full steam while I was starting from scratch.”

It was the type of play that demonstrated why Teixeira won three Gold Gloves for fielding during his exemplary career. The Indians made it a one-run game with a run in the eighth on a wild pitch by Dellin Betances, who atoned for that by earning his second save.

Masahiro Tanaka (8-4) pitched into the seventh and allowed six hits and no walks with eight strikeouts in what manager Joe Girardi called his best game of the season. “To shut down a team that beat him up badly the last time out was impressive,” Girardi said.

Brett Gardner opened the game for the Yankees with a triple off Carlos Carrasco (7-6) and scored on a sacrifice fly. Gardy tied Jake for the team lead with five triples, including three in his past six games. It was Gardner’s third leadoff triple this year, all in the past 18 games. No other major league team has more than two.

Didi Gregorius made the score 2-0 in the fourth with his 13th home run to put a nice touch on Didi Gregorius Bobblehead Day.

One weird sight came in the third when Ellsbury, on first base with a walk, kept running around the bases as Teixeira lifted a foul pop behind third and into a double play. So what happened?

“I asked him about it, and his answer might be stranger than why he kept going,” Girardi said. “It was a first for me. Put it down to a brain cramp.”

An off night for Tanaka prevents sweep of Astros

The signs were favorable Wednesday night for the Yankees to make some strides against their competition in the American League East. The Orioles, Red Sox and Blue Jays all lost while the Yanks had their ace, Masahiro Tanaka, on the mound seeking a sweep of the Astros at Houston’s Minute Maid Park.

The recent stretch of quality work by Yankees starters hit a snag as Tanaka gave up four earned runs and seven hits, including a home run, with two walks and four strikeouts in his five innings in a 4-1 loss. Both walks came in the second inning with one out and led to a Houston run on a single by Carlos Gomez.

Tanaka avoided further damage that inning with a strikeout and a pepper shot but got into immediate trouble in the third as Marwin Gonzalez led off with a single. He crossed to second on an infield out and to third on a wild pitch from where he scored on a single by Carlos Correa. The killer blow came from Colby Rasmus, who had been hitless in his previous 29 at-bats but drove a 2-1 splitter that stayed up for a two-run home run.

The past turn through the rotation the five Yankees starters had combined for a 3-0 record with a 1.62 ERA in 33 1/3 innings.

The Yankees’ only resistance was Brian McCann’s 15th homer leading off the fourth. The Yanks put two runners on with one out, but Lance McCullers Jr. struck out Chase Headley and Aaron Hicks to douse the rally. McCullers, whose father pitched for the Yankees in 1989 and ’90, had 10 strikeouts in his six innings.

The Yanks wound up striking out 15 times as three Astros relief pitchers teamed to retire all nine batters they faced with five Ks. The last 10 Yankees batters in the game went down in order and 17 of the final 18 hitters, 10 on strikes.

Relief pitching was also a positive for the Yankees. Adam Warren, reacquired from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade, pitched a scoreless sixth inning. Luis Severino, recently recalled from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, showed flashes of 2015 with two hitless innings of one-walk, three-strikeout relief.

Both relievers could play major roles the rest of the way. Warren was 3-2 but with a 5.91 ERA for the Cubs and was optioned to Triple A Iowa. Severino was even worse for the Yankees (0-6, 7.46 ERA), but he may have re-found himself at SWB where he was 7-1 with a 3.25 ERA in 10 starts.

Alex Rodriguez spent his 41st birthday on the bench with no chance to improve on his .206 batting average, which has quite frankly placed him where he is.