At the intersection of free spending and costly injury, the Yankees carry on. In Wednesday's day-night doubleheader sweep of the Chicago Cubs, they had both multimillionaire pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and the timely production of a fluid, patchwork lineup going for them.
Emergency call-up Scott Sizemore scored one run and drove in the other in the Yankees' 2-0 nightcap victory after Tanaka, providing the latest and best in a trilogy of efficient early-season starts, struck out 10 and allowed just two bunt singles in eight innings to win the first game, 3-0.
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The Yanks got shutouts in both ends of a doubleheader for the first time since doing it against the Royals on April 19, 1987.
One significant returnee from temporary disability was Derek Jeter, who played his first game since Friday because of quadriceps discomfort. But Jeter's appearance in the second game -- his single in five at-bats was one of 12 Yankees hits -- took a backseat to other developments.
Manager Joe Girardi called Sizemore's first big-league RBI in three years, after two knee operations, "obviously special" -- though Sizemore did not make himself available to reporters after the game.
Meanwhile, Michael Pineda's first turn on the mound since the semi-controversial sighting of something on his palm April 10 against Boston -- when the Red Sox dismissed any concern of chicanery -- resulted in a solid six innings in which he allowed just four hits.
Pineda (2-1, 1.00 ERA) walked one and struck out three before relievers David Phelps, Matt Thornton and Adam Warren finished up, and Girardi conceded that "when you're shutting down the other team for 18 innings, you're doing some things right."
To watch the starters mow down Chicago's hitters, Warren said, "was a lot of fun seeing all the weak contact and failed swings."
As tidy as the work by Pineda was -- he gave no thought to the unknown substance issue vs. Boston, he said -- it was thoroughly overshadowed by Tanaka, whose two-hitter, in truth, was more of a two-nubber. Both Chicago singles were the result of bunts -- one of roughly 40 feet that required a video review to reverse an "out" call, the other an 80-footer that beat one of those dastardly infield shifts, leaving no one to charge from the third-base position.
The Yankees got all the offense they needed in the first game on Carlos Beltran's first-inning home run. It was his 362nd, moving him past Joe DiMaggio on baseball's career list.
"I feel good. I'm seeing the ball good," said Beltran, who went 3-for-7 in the doubleheader, lifting his average to .327. He got his fourth homer and ninth run batted in since joining the Yankees, a decision that was not based on the Stadium's inviting short rightfield porch.
Dean Anna's fourth-inning sacrifice fly and Jacoby Ellsbury's fifth-inning groundout drove in the other runs in the opener.
Tanaka (2-0, 2.05) again gave ample evidence of justifying his seven-year, $155-million contract.
His 10 strikeouts give him 28, the most ever in a Yankee's first three career starts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Tanaka is only the second pitcher in the last 100 years (after Stephen Strasburg) to strike out eight or more batters in each of his first three major-league starts. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter last week called Tanaka the "best offseason signing by anyone."
Girardi cited Tanaka's ability to make in-game adjustments, and Tanaka, speaking through a translator, said the adjustments would be ongoing all season.
After Tanaka's perfect 2013 season in Japan, Girardi said, "It's not every day that you get a guy coming off a 24-0 season. It would probably be tough to live up to that."
But, so far, so good.