With his surgically repaired right elbow no longer throbbing in pain, Masahiro Tanaka is back to pitching the way the Yankees envisioned when they outbid several teams to lure him from Japan two years ago.
Tanaka allowed one run over seven innings to get his first victory in more than a month and the Yankees beat the Oakland Athletics 5-1 on Saturday to win their season-high fourth straight in Joe Girardi’s 1,500th game as a manager.
“I thought he was pretty good today,” Girardi said. “He got in a couple of little jams and was able to wriggle his way out of it. He threw the ball well. We’re happy with where he’s at right now. He’s answered all the questions.”
Starlin Castro broke out of a slump with three hits and Carlos Beltran singled twice to keep up his recent tear as the Yankees won their third straight over the A’s after getting swept by Oakland in the Bronx earlier this season.
Tanaka (2-0) had two walks and four strikeouts in his first win since April 12.
It was the third game in which Tanaka has pitched on five days of rest. He has a 1.57 ERA in those games compared to the 5.68 mark he has when pitching with fewer days off.
“I don’t think I was that different from last time out,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “We just had good offense going today. That’s probably why we were able to win the game.”
Castro was in a 3-for-22 funk before he reached on an infield single as part of New York’s four-run fourth. The veteran second baseman also singled in the fifth, and then doubled in Ronald Torreyes for an insurance run in the seventh.
Beltran had an RBI single in the fourth to stay hot. He is batting .391 (9 for 23) with eight RBIs over the past six games. All the runs came off rookie starter Sean Manaea (1-2).
Tanaka and reliever Nick Goody made it hold to help the Yankees move out of last place in the AL East for the first time since April 18.
Tanaka retired seven of the first eight and pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth by getting Danny Valencia to strike out swinging before Khris Davis grounded out.
“He’s not really throwing as hard as he used to,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “Every now and then he’ll rev one up ... but it’s a cutter, it’s a slider, it’s a split, it’s a curve every now and then. He keeps you off balance.”
Goody retired six batters to complete the six-hitter.
The A’s scored their only run off Tanaka in the fifth when Matt McBride walked and scored on Valencia’s sacrifice fly.
In typical Girardi fashion, the Yankees skipper downplayed his milestone moment as a manager. “I’m getting old is what it means,” the 51-year-old said of his 1,500th game. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to manage that many games at this level. I’m very thankful.” Girardi managed Florida for one season; his other 1,338 games have come in New York.