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Tanaka aims to bail out Yankees vs. A’s

( – The New York Yankees hope Masahiro Tanaka can start his June slate the way he ended May when the Japanese hurler gets the call Thursday against the Oakland Athletics.

Tanaka will try to salvage the finale of this three-game set for the Yankees, who have lost four in a row and six of eight games.

Tanaka was named the AL Pitcher of the Month for May by going 5-1 with a 1.88 earned run average in six starts with 42 strikeouts and six walks across 43 innings. The Yankees were 5-1 in Tanaka’s starts last month.

“I’m really honored and happy to be able to receive such an award,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “But basically, the bottom line is I’m not pitching or playing to get that award. I can’t really be satisfied just because of this.”

Tanaka, who has the best ERA in the American League at 2.06, allowed one unearned run and four hits in eight innings of a 3-1 victory over Minnesota on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, where he is 3-0 in five appearances. He struck out nine Minnesota batters and has fanned at least five in all 11 starts, going 8-1 in that stretch.

The right-handed phenom will face Oakland for the first time and has a 4-0 record and 1.21 ERA in daytime starts.

Drew Pomeranz will oppose Tanaka for the Athletics and has won four of his last five starts. Pomeranz was bailed out by the offense in Friday’s 9-5 win over the LA Angels and gave up five runs in 5 1/3 innings for the victory.

He permitted only five runs in 32 2/3 innings to start the season.

Pomeranz, a left-hander, improved to 5-2 in 14 games (5 starts) to go along with a 2.37 ERA. He is 1-2 in seven road appearances, two of which have been starts, and has never faced the Yankees.

Oakland recorded its fifth straight win and seventh in nine tries with Wednesday’s 7-4 victory, as Yoenis Cespedes homered twice and finished with three hits. Josh Donaldson also homered and collected three hits and two runs scored for the A’s, who rallied from a 4-0 deficit and have scored at least five runs in five straight and seven of nine games.

The A’s have homered in 12 straight games with 22 total in that span. They have 71 home runs on the season and are first with 308 runs scored.

Jesse Chavez allowed the four runs and seven hits in six innings, and settled down to earn the win. He is 5-3 on the season and helped Oakland starters to a 14-4 record in the past 25 games. Oakland leads the majors with a 2.93 ERA and has held opposing hitters to an MLB-low .222 batting average.

Sean Doolittle posted his seventh save with a scoreless ninth and ran his scoreless innings streak to 16 1/3.

The AL West-leading Athletics are 18-7 in their last 25 games and a season- high 15 games above the .500 mark with a league-best 37-22 mark. Only San Francisco has a better ledger at 38-21. The A’s will visit Baltimore next on this nine-game trek and will close the journey in Anaheim.

Oakland is 20-10 on the road this season.

New York was looking good after Jacoby Ellsbury highlighted a four-run third inning with a three-run homer, but the club couldn’t hold the lead. The A’s nibbled back and eventually tied the game with two runs in the sixth inning. They grabbed a 5-4 lead when Donaldson homered off Yankees reliever Jose Ramirez in the top of the seventh and added two more in the ninth.

“We’re not going to give up,” said Donaldson. “Eventually we were able to knock their starter out and get to their bullpen. Cespedes hits two homers and I was fortunate to get one. We’ll take it.”

Ramirez was dealt the loss and Vidal Nuno lasted 4 2/3 innings in the start, charged with two runs and six hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

Ellsbury ended with three hits for the Yankees, who will start a 10-game road trip Friday at Kansas City, Seattle and Oakland.

“We know how this game goes and we have to continue to tack on runs,” said Ellsbury. “It seems like we have been close, but that big hit has eluded us the past few games.”

The Yankees hope to have slugger Carlos Beltran (elbow) back for the road trip, but he could even join the club Thursday as a possible designated hitter. Beltran, who hasn’t played since early May, has been getting healthy with extended spring training games.

“He could possibly be in the lineup tomorrow,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Wednesday on the club’s website. “We’ll make a decision tomorrow, see how he feels, and he could be in the lineup tomorrow.”

In other team news, former Yankees coach and baseball mentor Don Zimmer passed away at the age of 83 on Wednesday.

“That’s a tough one to swallow,” Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said on the team’s website. “Everyone knows how much Zim has meant, not only to our organization, but to baseball as a whole. Your thoughts and prayers go out to his family. That’s tough news.”

New York lost five of six meetings with the Athletics last season and is just 3-12 in the previous 15 matchups between the clubs. The Yankees are 5-8 in their last 13 home games versus Oakland.

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