Yankees beat Blue Jays as Masahiro Tanaka wins 11th

David Phelps of the Yankees stands on the
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David Phelps of the Yankees stands on the mound in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, June 19, 2014.(Credit: Jim McIsaac)

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The first pitch Masahiro Tanaka threw left the ballpark. But for the next six innings, he didn't allow a Blue Jay to reach third base, let alone score.

Sounds like a dominant performance, right? Not quite.

But the Yankees rave about Tanaka's ability to make adjustments on the fly, and in their 3-1 win over the Blue Jays Tuesday night, he showed why.

On a night when he struggled with his command, Tanaka navigated potential trouble and struck out 10 in six innings against one of the American League's top offenses.

"Overall, my stuff wasn't really good tonight,'' Tanaka said through a translator. "All I was trying to do was hang in there and keep the ball down.''

Supported by Brett Gardner's two-run home run and an RBI single by Mark Teixeira, Tanaka (11-1) gained sole possession of the major-league lead in wins. Mark Buehrle, who starts for the Blue Jays against the Yankees Wednesday night, is 10-3.

"What he has done has been incredible,'' Joe Girardi said. "He continues to grind out starts, make adjustments, give us distance -- and he wins.''

Dellin Betances pitched perfect seventh and eighth innings, striking out three, and David Robertson got his 17th save with a scoreless ninth.

The Yankees snapped a two-game losing streak in their first of 15 consecutive games against the AL East. They trail the first-place Blue Jays by 31/2 games and have a chance to gain ground quickly, with five of their next eight against them.

On the way to lowering his league-leading ERA to 1.99, Tanaka also delivered a firsthand lesson to Blue Jays starter and Patchogue-Medford High School product Marcus Stroman about how to make the most of your pitches.

Stroman, making his fourth major-league start and first at Yankee Stadium, dropped to 3-2 after giving up two runs in only 32/3 innings. Faced with deep counts to many hitters, the Long Islander's pitch count was at 98 when he was removed.

Tanaka faced a similar situation against a team that is at or near the top of almost every key offensive category. After Jose Reyes led off with a homer, the Blue Jays looked primed to jump on him.

As Tanaka watched the ball sail into the second row, his expression was a mix of disbelief and frustration. He said giving up a first-pitch homer for the first time ever "threw me off my rhythm a little bit. I just said to myself that I really need to hang in there and not give in.''

Five of the next 12 Blue Jays reached base, but Tanaka didn't allow another run, although he needed 38 pitches to get through two innings.

"We were feeling pretty good about ourselves, thinking 'Here we go,' '' Reyes said. "But when he needed to make a pitch, he made a pitch. He's one of the best in the game right now.''

The Yankees got to Stroman with one out in the third when Gardner hooked a ball off the screen on the rightfield foul pole for a two-run shot. Gardner's home run, on a 2-and-1 curve, landed in the closest part of the Stadium, where the wall is 314 feet from home plate.

Never mind that Stroman probably pitched in ballparks with deeper corners while at Patchogue-Medford. Here in the Bronx, it's a home run.

The Yankees made it 3-1 in the fifth against lefthander Aaron Loup. Derek Jeter led off with an infield hit, advanced to third on a wild pitch and a groundout and scored when Teixeira lined a single to center.

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