Masahiro Tanaka moves to 4-0, Mark Teixeira homers again as Yankees beat Rays

Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees pitches in the

Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees pitches in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, May 3, 2014. (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

The pressure was on Masahiro Tanaka to deliver a lengthy outing after a bullpen-draining 14-inning loss to the Rays that ended early Saturday morning.

Joe Girardi was blunt in assessing the significance of that. "It's important," he said before Saturday's game, "because we'll be without some guys today."

But equally important was getting an offense that has struggled lately, especially with runners in scoring position, to do its job.

And both aspects came together for the Yankees in a 9-3 victory over the Rays in front of 43,325 at the Stadium.

"You have to score runs," Mark Teixeira said. "Numbers don't mean anything if you don't put 'em across the plate. We hit a couple of home runs, [got] a couple of big hits with men on base, and that was the difference in the game."

It was an encouraging afternoon all around for the Yankees (16-13), who snapped their losing streak at a season-worst three games.

Tanaka (4-0, 2.53) provided the length Girardi wanted, allowing three runs and eight hits in seven innings.

Plus the Yankees scored in five straight innings after falling behind 3-0, a contrast with the previous game, in which they went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, stranded 13 and blew numerous opportunities in extra innings.

Teixeira's two-run homer into the second deck in rightfield against Jake Odorizzi in the fourth cut the Yankees' deficit to 3-2 and Kelly Johnson's solo shot off Josh Lueke (0-2) in the sixth provided a 4-3 lead.

"It was a nice win," said Jacoby Ellsbury, who went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .346 and on-base percentage to .403. He has seven hits in the past two games, including an RBI double in the fifth that tied the score at 3-3.

Ichiro Suzuki had two doubles and has a team-best .375 average (with a .400 OBP). Brett Gardner also had two hits, including a two-run single in the eighth.

The most uplifting aspect of the afternoon for the Yankees might have been Teixeira, who might be on his way to finding his pre-surgery swing. He went 2-for-4 with three RBIs, homering for the fourth time in five games -- in which he is 7-for-19 -- and for the fifth time in his last eight contests.

The Yankees' rotation suddenly is a question mark with Ivan Nova lost for the season and Michael Pineda headed for the disabled list once his suspension ends, and the offense might have to carry some of the load.

At one time, Teixeira, 34, was capable of carrying an offense by himself, but a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist and subsequent surgery limited him to 15 games in 2013. A quiet spring training and start to this season made him at best an afterthought and, at worst, a target of fan anger.

"I was a guy by my second year, I was hitting third and expected to carry a team at times," said Teixeira, the only major-leaguer to reach 30 homers and 100 RBIs in every season from 2004-11. "That's nothing out of the ordinary for me. If I'm in the middle of the lineup, I expect a lot out of myself."

The switch hitter said his wrist didn't feel "great" coming out of spring training and theorized that the best thing that happened to him was the leg injury in early April that put him on the disabled list. The time off, he said, allowed his wrist to heal even more, setting up the recent power surge.

"You can go out there and grind out at-bats and work walks, but you want to put up numbers," he said. "You want to put up those home runs and you want to drive in runs for your team, and when you start seeing that, it makes you feel better about where you are physically. It's been a struggle the last year, obviously, coming back from this injury, but so far the results have been good."

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