If the Yankees do need to endure a one-game playoff, a prospect that seems much more likely after the weekend series against the Blue Jays, they have just the guy to pitch in it. Masahiro Tanaka proved that yesterday afternoon as he gave the Yankees the start they needed and a stop to the bleeding.

They still are 3½ games out of first place in the division after having lost three of four to the first-place team. So they look more like a wild-card entry than a division champion. But following Tanaka's lead in a 5-0 victory yesterday, they can breathe more easily about their prospect of making the postseason and surviving a single-game wild-card playoff.

Tanaka could give them an advantage in such an event.

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He was extraordinary, never allowing more than one Blue Jay to reach base in any of his seven scoreless innings. He struck out seven and did not walk anyone as he improved his record to 12-6 and gave the Yanks a huge sigh of relief.

He always was the front-runner to be a wild-card game candidate, although a case could be made for Luis Severino. But the latter had a rough outing in his start Friday, making Tanaka a clear choice to pitch in that huge spot.