Seattle, WA (SportsNetwork.com) – Masahiro Tanaka was masterful in his first start off the disabled list, firing seven sharp innings to lead the New York Yankees to a 3-1 win over the Seattle Mariners and a three-game series sweep.
Sidelined for nearly six weeks by a strained right forearm, Tanaka (3-1) returned to limit Seattle’s struggling offense to a run on three hits and struck out nine without a walk. All three hits came during the third inning.
Tanaka was backed by a pair of homers off Taijuan Walker in New York’s eighth consecutive victory at Safeco Field. Garrett Jones’ two-run blast in the fourth inning was his second go-ahead homer in as many days, while Mark Teixeira added a solo shot.
Andrew Miller finished off the sweep with a five-out save in which he escaped out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth.
Walker (2-6) was mostly outstanding as well in logging eight innings for a second consecutive outing. The young right-hander fanned seven with one walk and allowed just three hits other than the two long balls.
The scuffling Mariners recorded only five hits, however, in their season-high fifth straight loss. Seattle has scored three runs or fewer in each of its last eight games.
“We’re in a funk offensively. I’m sure it sounds like a broken record,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “But it’s tough. Tanaka had his ‘A’ game.”
Tanaka displayed little rust in his first major league outing since April 23, striking out three of the first six Seattle hitters while beginning the game with two perfect innings.
He was tagged for a leadoff triple by Brad Miller to begin the bottom of the third, and Dustin Ackley followed with a double off the wall in left to erase Seattle’s 1-0 deficit.
Ramon Flores later threw Ackley out at the plate with a perfect throw from left field on Logan Morrison’s single, which turned out to be the last time a Mariner would reach base against Tanaka. The standout righty retired the next 13 Seattle batters before giving way to Chris Capuano to start the bottom of the eighth.
“He was outstanding,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Tanaka. “His stuff was sharp today and (he had the) ability to move the ball around and expand the zone when he had to. It’s not an easy lineup. They’ve got some boys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark.”
Walker was in quite an early groove as well, setting down nine of the 11 hitters he faced over the opening three frames. His only major mistake over that stretch was a belt-high fastball to Teixeira that resulted in a towering drive which just cleared the right-field fence in the second.
Jones, whose three-run blast in the 11th inning was the big blow in New York’s 5-3 win on Tuesday, launched an off-speed pitch from Walker into the seats in right two innings later to send the Yankees back in front. The shot came with Alex Rodriguez aboard via a leadoff walk.
“With the way (Tanaka) was going and the swings they were taking, there was a good shot that was all he needed,” Jones said.
Walker yielded just two more hits the rest of the way, but his offense was mostly shut down until putting forth a threat in the eighth.
Justin Ruggiano greeted Capuano with a single and Miller hit Rickie Weeks with a pitch prior to walking Mike Zunino to load the bases with one out. The Yankee closer bounced back with a big strikeout of Morrison, however, then got Austin Jackson to ground out and keep it a 3-1 game.
Miller retired Ruggiano, representing the tying run, in the ninth to nail down his 17th save in as many chances this season.
Tanaka has permitted just three runs and nine hits while striking out 20 over 16 innings in two career starts at Safeco Field, both victories … Yankees catcher Brian McCann exited after grounding out in the second inning. He was diagnosed with a sore right foot and will undergo an MRI when the team returns home Thursday … Morrison’s single extended his hitting streak to 11 games … Seattle sluggers Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz combined to go 4-for-27 with 12 strikeouts in the series … Rodriguez scored his 1,949th career run to tie Hall of Famer Stan Musial for eighth on the all-time list … Reliever David Carpenter, who had a 4.82 ERA in 22 appearances with New York, was designated for assignment to make room for Tanaka.