Yankees keep faint AL East title hopes alive; Tanaka blanks Blue Jays with career-high 15 strikeouts

In his last start of the regular season, Masahiro Tanaka made Yankees history in a career-best seven-inning outing that blanked the Blue Jays and kept New York’s faint hopes of clinching the AL East division title alive.

Yankees keep faint AL East title hopes alive; Tanaka blanks Blue Jays with career-high 15 strikeouts
Masahiro Tanaka made franchise history on Friday afternoon, becoming the first pitcher in Yankees history with 15 strikeouts, no walks, and no earned runs in a single game, which he was able to maintain over seven shutout innings. | Photo: Abbie Parr/Gett
Toronto Blue Jays
0 4
New York Yankees

The last time Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka faced the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre last Friday, the Japanese right-hander surrendered seven earned runs, including a Grand Slam to Ryan Goins—the best clutch hitter in the majors with the bases loaded.

A week later, however, Tanaka would take to the mound for his final start of the regular season in the Bronx and exact his revenge on the free-swinging Toronto offence, striking out 15 and holding the Jays to just three hits over seven innings, without offering up a single walk, in a shutout 4-0 victory at Yankee Stadium.

“He was as good as he could be today,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons of Tanaka, whose offence just couldn’t get anything against the right-hander.

This victory, along with the Red Sox’s loss to the Astros on Friday night, keeps the Yankees’ faint hopes of clinching the American League East division title alive. A win for Boston, or a loss for New York this weekend, would clinch the division for the Red Sox, but in the unlikely event that they are unable to win another game in the regular season, the Yankees have a chance to steal the title with a series sweep over Toronto.

Yanks Get to Biagini Early

After all his struggles as a starting pitcher this year, it looked as if Biagini was going to show the bad version of himself in his final start of the year. He gave up a walk in between a pair of singles to load the bases in the first with one out, and proceeded to surrender another base hit to give the Yankees the early advantage. A sacrifice fly from Greg Bird would double that advantage, and New York immediately found themselves up by two by the end of the inning.

After a rough start, Biagini would eventually settle down, retiring 10 of the next 11 batters he faced going into the fifth. In the fifth, however, he would fall victim to another big hit from Aaron Judge, whose long single scored Aaron Hicks from first to make it 3-0 for the home team.

The Yankees would get some extra insurance with another RBI from Bird in the sixth, but that would be more than enough thanks to a historic outing for Tanaka.

Terrific Tanaka Fans 12; Makes Franchise History

In addition to striking out 15 and allowing just three hits over seven innings, Tanaka didn’t walk a single batter nor did he surrender a single earned run, which was unprecedented for a Yankees pitcher. Thanks to some great work from the bullpen, the Japanese right-hander was able to pick up his 13th win of the year, putting an end to what has been the most up-and-down year of his career in the majors.

“It’s pretty obvious that I had a lot of ups and downs this season, but just I really want to take this year as a learning [experience],” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “Hopefully, in the future, I can look back at this as the year with a lot of struggles, but I was able to learn from them.”

In a rematch of last Sunday’s game at Rogers Centre, Marcus Stroman, who has been the most reliable and consistent member of the Blue Jays’ starting rotation this year, will look to help even up the series against Jaime García on Saturday afternoon in his last start of the season.