Tanaka’s gem lifts Yankees over Rays
New York regains AL East lead with fifth straight win
NEW YORK — Now this was the dominant Masahiro Tanaka that the New York Yankees wanted to see.
Looking every bit like an ace, Tanaka took a perfect game into the sixth inning and struck out a career-high 14 as the Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-1 on Friday for their fifth straight win.
Boosted by three home runs, Tanaka and the Yankees had even more to show for their effort — they moved back into first place in the American League East for the first time in a month, edging ahead of the Boston Red Sox, who have lost five of six.
“Just to see him dealing like that is encouraging,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You want to get him on a roll.”
Tanaka (8-9) struck out the first five batters, all on swings, and also fanned the side in the eighth to end his outing.
The Japanese star was winless in his past three starts, and has been plagued by inconsistency most of the year. That came after he went a combined 39-16 in his first three seasons his AL-leading 33rd homer and Clint Frazier added a threerun shot.
On Thursday, Gardner won the opener of this four-game set between playoff contenders with a homer in the 11th. Judge wound up losing half of his front left tooth in the celebration — he got a temporary fix earlier in the day.
Tanaka set down 17 in a row before Adeiny Hechavarria grounded a sharp, two-out single up the middle, past diving shortstop Didi Gregorius. Tanaka impassively watched the ball roll into center field and, after a brief ovation from the fans, went back to work.
“Right out of the gate, he went his split, his cutter, his slider. Kept of us off-balance, racked up a ton of strikeouts,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “From the side there didn’t appear to be many pitches that guys could handle.”
Tanaka allowed two hits and walked none.
Lucas Duda homered in the seventh, a day after Tampa Bay got him a trade with the New York Mets.
Austin Pruitt (5-2), called up from Triple-A to take the turn of injured Jake Odorizzi, gave up all three homers in five innings. The Rays have lost seven of nine and are 0-5 in the Bronx this year.
Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka pitches in the fourth inning of New York’s 6-1 win over Tampa Bay on Friday