CHICAGO - Masahiro Tanaka pitched to his usual excellence, which the Yankees have come to expect when he takes the mound.
But four hits from Derek Jeter?
At one time it wouldn't have been all that surprising, but that sort of outing by Jeter doesn't come very often anymore.
But the 39-year-old shortstop had a turn-back-the-clock afternoon Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field, collecting three singles, a triple and two RBIs in a 7-1 win over the White Sox that gave the Yankees a split of the four-game series.
"It's not easy what he's doing,'' Joe Girardi said of Jeter, who had four hits in his first four at-bats. "This game's hard for all the players, and to be able to go out and get four hits on a day you're trying to even a series and even a road trip after some tough losses, it's not easy for anybody.''
The Yankees (26-23) went 3-3 during their week in Chicago, with their nine-game trip continuing Monday afternoon in St. Louis.
Jeter's day overshadowed, though not by much, a terrific rebound effort by Tanaka. He was coming off the first loss of his major-league career -- and first regular-season loss in nearly two years -- last Tuesday on the north side of town against the Cubs.
Tanaka (7-1, 2.29) did a far better job of keeping the ball down than he had against the Cubs, allowing one run, five hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 62/3 innings.
"Maybe angry isn't the proper word, but I was disappointed,'' Tanaka said through his translator, referring to the impact of his first loss. "Obviously, with the loss against the Cubs I really wanted to go out there and get us a win.''
The Yankees improved to 8-2 in games started by Tanaka. He has 10 quality starts in as many outings, critical because of all the uncertainty with the rest of the rotation.
"He's been huge for us,'' catcher Brian McCann said. "His record speaks for itself, but every time he takes the hill, we like our chances.''
Said Jeter: "I figured he probably wouldn't go undefeated in his career, but it seems like it's the same story every time we talk about him. He knows how to pitch. He's got so many pitches he can beat you with.''
Tanaka shut out the White Sox (25-27) for five innings before Tyler Flowers lined a leadoff double over leftfielder Brett Gardner's head and scored on Conor Gillaspie's two-out single in the sixth. That cut the Yankees' lead to 6-1, but Brian Roberts got the run back with a home run in the eighth.
Tanaka seemed to tire in the seventh, allowing a single and two walks, and was helped when Paul Konerko lined into a double play. Tanaka departed with runners on first and second, and Adam Warren struck out Flowers to end the inning.
The Yankees put it away early, scoring four runs in a 31-pitch second inning that left White Sox starter Andre Rienzo (4-1, 4.39) at 56 pitches after two.
Yangervis Solarte started the inning with a single and, after Alfonso Soriano flied out, Ichiro Suzuki singled and Roberts walked to load the bases. Gardner then grounded a two-run single to right that made it 2-0.
After Rienzo's wild pickoff attempt put runners on second and third, Jeter's second hit, a flare to right, made it 3-0. Jacoby Ellsbury's sacrifice fly, a sinking liner on which centerfielder Adam Eaton made a fine sliding catch, gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead.
Jeter tripled with two outs in the fourth and scored on a wild pitch. Soriano led off the sixth with a double and scored on Jeter's two-out single.
"You just want to get Tanaka a couple of runs,'' Gardner said. "You feel like he'll be in control if you get him the lead, and we were able to do that.''