ATLANTA - The Yankees and their skidding offense could not have hand-picked a better pitcher to face Friday night than Williams Perez.
The Braves righthander had lost four of his last five decisions and allowed 26 earned runs in that span for a 7.98 ERA. And now those numbers are worse.
The Yankees drove Perez from the game after 12/3 innings, scoring their first eight runs en route to a 15-4 victory in front of 35,546 at Turner Field.
The Yankees (70-57), who had lost five of their last seven and scored four runs in their previous three games, stayed 11/2 games behind the Blue Jays.
Masahiro Tanaka (10-6) was spotted a 5-0 lead before taking the mound but allowed two of those back in the bottom half before settling down. He gave up three runs and five hits in seven innings, walking one and striking out seven. "The fastball got better as the game progressed,'' he said through an interpreter. "It kind of was a tough inning for me, the first inning. Just couldn't locate it, but I think I was able to make adjustments and get into a better rhythm."
Perez retired the first two batters in each of the first and second innings, which means the Yankees scored a combined nine runs on six hits and six walks with two outs in that span.
They finished with 16 hits -- including three-run homers by Didi Gregorius (four hits, six RBIs) and Brian McCann (four RBIs) -- and eight walks. And they did it without Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Said Joe Girardi, "It just shows you that everyone's capable of producing in our lineup. And we had a lot of production everywhere."
Carlos Beltran started the two-out rally in the first inning with a single, the first of his three hits. McCann, a member of the Braves from 2005-13 who received a nice ovation before his at-bat, and Greg Bird both walked, loading the bases for Chase Headley. He hammered a get-me-over fastball to left-center for a two-run double that made it 2-0. Gregorius then lined his seventh homer to make it 5-0.
"We needed that,'' Gregorius said of the overall offensive explosion. "The offense had been struggling the last couple days but we've been working to get it in the right direction. Today, that's what happened."
Said Girardi, "This was a big night for us. Just to get some guys going because we've been struggling so bad offensively."
Tanaka struggled with his command in the bottom half, a 27-pitch inning. Nick Markakis singled, Cameron Maybin walked and Freddie Freeman singled to make it 5-1 before former Yankee Nick Swisher hit a sacrifice fly to center.
Adonis Garcia singled but Tanaka got out of it, though barely. With two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury, battling a sore right hip, chased down Christian Bethancourt's drive to the warning track in centerfield, crashing to the dirt as he did so.
Said Tanaka, "It saved me."
After Garcia's single, Tanaka retired 19 of the next 20, with Freddie Freeman's 15th homer the lone blip in that stretch.
The Yankees blew it open in the second, sending 10 to the plate. Gardner and Beltran singled with two outs and McCann walked to load the bases, ending Perez's night. In came lefthander Ross Detwiler, who walked Bird and Headley to force home two runs. Gregorius' two-run single to leftfield made it 9-2.
McCann's 23rd homer and Gregorius' two-out RBI single made it 13-3 in the eighth. Chris Young homered and McCann lifted a sacrifice fly as the Yankees scored two runs against Braves outfielder Jonny Gomes in the ninth.
That capped a big night for McCann in front of his hometown fans. "I've been saying it all day, I was really excited to come back and play in front of these fans,'' he said. "Tonight meant a whole lot to me. And we got a win. That was big."
Bryan Mitchell, pitching for the first time since being hit in the face with a line drive and suffering a nasal fracture on Aug. 17, allowed an RBI single by Bethancourt in the bottom of the ninth.