NEW YORK — Masahiro Tanaka gave up a home run on the first pitch of the game, then earned his major league-high 11th victory of the season as the New York Yankees beat Toronto 3-1 on June 17.
That was the first time Tanaka could remember getting tagged so quickly and said it “threw me off my rhythm a little bit.”
“Overall, my stuff wasn’t really there,” he said through a translator.
Even so, Tanaka (11-1) struck out 10 in six innings and left with an American League-best 1.99 ERA. He has made 14 starts this season — he’s gone at least six innings in every outing and never permitted more than three earned runs.
“What he’s done is remarkable,” Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said. “He wins.”
Brett Gardner hit a two-run homer off the right-field foul pole as the Yankees won at home against the Blue Jays for the 14th straight time.
Tanaka made his big league debut April 4 at Toronto, when Melky Cabrera hit a leadoff home run on the third pitch.
Jose Reyes provided an even faster start this time with a drive into the lower deck in right. “I made up my mind before the game that I was going to swing at the first pitch,” he said. “You don’t want to face Tanaka with two strikes.”
Said Girardi: “He just threw a pitch right down the middle and up. Reyes knew what to do.”
“Reyes is familiar with this ballpark,” he said. “He went to the short part of the park.”
Cabrera followed with a liner between Tanaka’s legs that knocked off the pitcher’s glove. But Tanaka scrambled to retrieve the ball behind the mound and threw out Cabrera, and never again allowed a runner past second.
Tanaka moved ahead of Toronto’s Mark Buehrle for the most wins in the majors. Buehrle starts June 18 at Yankee Stadium in the middle game of the three-game series.
(BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer)