The Yankees were lifted to a 4–3 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday afternoon by Masahiro Tanaka and Alex Rodriguez, two players they desperately needed to play well.
Tanaka out-dueled Hisashi Iwakuma, his former teammate in Japan, settling in after a rocky 24-pitch first inning and tossing seven innings of four-run ball. The Yankees ace hit 94 mph (!) and flexed his slider and splitter in what was his best-looking start of the young season. With three sturdy starts, he has perhaps cemented himself himself as the team’s top starter.
Then, there was A-Rod, the 40-year-old designated hitter mired in an 0-for-19 slump who was dropped from third to sixth in the order on Sunday. He cranked a two-run tater to left in the second, accounting for half of the team’s runs.
Solid contact from Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez, coupled with soft contact from the Mariners, helped the Yankees one game away from .500, at 5–6 on the year.
The Play: Gardner scores on a wild pitch (+ .074 WPA)
With Mark Teixeira batting and one out with runners on the corners, Steve Clevenger set up on the outside part of the plate for a 2–1 slider from Iwakuma. He pulled the pitch down over the plate, bouncing it in front of his catcher and through his legs. As the ball rolled away slowly, Gardner made a great read, dashing home and beating the throw back from Clevenger to Iwakuma.
The Yankees would not relinquish the lead, and the play proved to be key considering their struggles with runners in scoring position.
Yankees – Brett Gardner (3-for-4, 2B, R, RBI, SB)
Mariners – Seth Smith (2-for-4, R, RBI)
– Not to spoil the fun, but the Yankees were just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position even though they snapped an 0-for-30 slide. Rodriguez’s homer came with a man on first, and the team’s fourth run came on a wild pitch. This continued a troubling trend.
– Two innings, no runs, no hits, no walks, and six strikeouts from Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. They were superb.
– Miller has struck out each of the last seven batters he’s faced.
Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have gotten 33 outs this year.
27 of them are strikeouts.
— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) April 17, 2016
– The fact that Tanaka went seven innings on just 95 pitches is encouraging; he has lasted just 10 2/3 in his previous two starts combined.
– Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury both stole a base, bringing the Yankees’ season total to a league-best 13.
– Starlin Castro is now hitting .480 at home. It must be the fresh air of the Bronx.
The Highlight: A-Rod’s two-run shot to left
The aforementioned Rodriguez roped a first-pitch fastball from Iwakuma at 86 mph into the left field seats for a two-run jack. It put the Yankees ahead 2–1 at the time, and snapped an 0-for-19 slide dating back to April 9.
Exit velocity: 107 mph
The Yankees have an off day on Monday and host the Athletics on Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. Michael Pineda has looked really good and really bad this season, and will look for some consistency. He’ll oppose Eric Surkamp, a 28-year-old journeyman southpaw, who has allowed four runs and nine hits in nine innings this season across two starts.
Lead photo: Brad Penner / USA Today Sports