NEW YORK—One big development for the banged-up N.Y. Yankees as they've limped toward the all-star break the past few weeks: Masahiro Tanaka is back in top form.
Tanaka pitched seven sharp innings for his second-straight win following a long slump as the Yankees beat the skidding Toronto Blue Jays 6-3 last night.
“I feel better out there and it's definitely going in the right direction,” Tanaka said through a translator.
Hours after announcing they'll both compete in the Home Run Derby next Monday, all-star sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez sparked New York's offence.
Consecutive singles by those “Baby Bombers” in the first helped the Yankees scratch out two runs against Marcus Stroman.
Then Judge's lead-off single and Sanchez's double set up a four-run eighth that included Chase Headley's two-run double off Ryan Tepera.
Headley was hit by a pitch to force home a run in the first and finished with three RBIs.
Jacoby Ellsbury drew a bases-loaded walk from Stroman (8-5), who grew up on Long Island about 55 miles from Yankee Stadium.
Last-place Toronto now has dropped five-straight and nine-of-11.
“Just gone cold, you know?” manager John Gibbons said.
“I still feel like we're about to explode.”
Tanaka (7-7) turned in his third-consecutive strong outing—a major positive for the second-place Yankees as they chase AL East-leading Boston.
New York won for only the sixth time in 20 games.
“We have an opportunity in front of us,” noted manager Joe Girardi.
“I think that's what you ask for as you move forward.”
Tanaka yielded one run and five hits with eight strikeouts and one walk.
The right-hander was coming off a win last Wednesday at the Chicago White Sox—his first since May 8.
Before that, he was 0-6 in a stretch of eight starts.
“He gets you off the fastball just in time to throw the fastball,” Toronto outfielder Steve Pearce noted.
"It's only a matter of time for somebody like that.
“Sometimes you'll feel the wrath of somebody when they're coming out of it,” he added.
“He's coming out of it—you could tell.”
New York scored its last two runs in the eighth on an error by catcher Luke Maile.
They came in handy when Aroldis Chapman gave up two in the ninth before closing it out.
With a runner on, Headley went to his knees to snag a game-ending line drive.
Struggling reliever Dellin Betances, another one of New York's five all-stars, struck out two in a scoreless eighth to protect a 2-1 lead.
He was aided by Sanchez, who threw out Josh Donaldson trying to steal for an inning-ending double play .
Darwin Barney hit an RBI single in the seventh off Tanaka, who then snared Maile's hard come-backer with a runner on second to end the inning and keep the Yankees ahead.
Pinch-hitter Kevin Pillar had an RBI double in the ninth before Barney followed with a run-scoring single.
Stroman developed a blister and was checked by a trainer in the fifth.
He finished the inning but was pulled after that by Gibbons, who said the right-hander's finger was getting raw.
“Extremely frustrating,” said Stroman, who threw 79 pitches.
“I feel like it's an epidemic that's happening across the big leagues now, a bunch of pitchers getting blisters—guys who have never had blisters before,” he noted.
"So for MLB to turn their back to it, I think that's kind of crazy.
“I have no theory," Stroman added. ”But obviously, I mean, it's not a coincidence that it's happening to so many guys all of a sudden.
“It's not a coincidence.”
Elsewhere in the AL, Minnesota beat L.A. 9-5, Boston topped Texas 7-5 (11 innings), Chicago dumped Oakland 7-2, and Kansas City downed Seattle 3-1.
Over in the NL, Washington nipped New York 3-2, Philadelphia blanked Pittsburgh 4-0, St. Louis routed Miami 14-6, and Colorado beat Cincinnati 5-3.
Baltimore fell 8-1 to Milwaukee in interleague play.