The Yankees welcomed their newest shiny toy in Edwin Encarnacion at Yankee Stadium on Monday night.
To those who say they didn’t need him, didn’t need another power bat, that was proven true. The American League’s home run leader went 0-for-4 in the Yankees’ 3-0 victory over the Rays. The home runs on this night were provided by less likely power sources DJ LeMahieu and Cameron Maybin.
To those who say the Yankees need to acquire more starting pitching, general manager Brian Cashman agrees. It would also help if Masahiro Tanaka pitches more often like he did on Monday.
Tanaka threw a two-hit shutout in his best and longest outing of the season. He allowed three baserunners – two singles and a walk. He struck out 10 and retired first nine and the final 10 Rays.
It was Tanaka’s fourth career shutout and seventh complete game. It was the Yankees’ first complete game of the season. The last Yankees pitcher to throw a two-hitter with at least 10 strikeouts was Mike Mussina, who struck out 12 against Tampa Bay on Sept. 24, 2002.
Games such as that made Mussina a Hall of Famer. The Yankees don’t need Tanaka to set his sights on Cooperstown, but they do need their starters to pitch more like aces than they have to this point.
The crowd of 39,042 applauded when Tanaka came out for the ninth with Aroldis Chapman up in the bullpen and again when some of Tanaka’s warmup tosses were shown on the centerfield scoreboard.
“We all wanted him to go out for the ninth inning,” Luke Voit said. “He’s that kind of pitcher.”
Tanaka (5-5), who entered the inning with 100 pitches, struck out Mike Zunino and Austin Meadows and got Tommy Pham on a slow grounder to third to complete the 111-pitch gem.
“For him to continue to get outs and do it in a really efficient manner was huge,” manager Aaron Boone said. “For him to close it out like that, you could tell he could smell the finish line, too. Big-time performance to kick off this series for us.”
The Yankees, who will welcome Giancarlo Stanton back from the injured list on Tuesday and hope to have Aaron Judge back later this week, increased their lead over the Rays in the AL East to 1½ games.
“It makes it even better to be able to go nine innings,” Tanaka said through his translator. “Also, the fact that we’re facing the Rays, who are up there with us, so definitely it’s really nice to get a ‘W’ tonight.”
The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the third when LeMahieu improved his numbers with runners in scoring position and two outs by hitting a two-run homer to left-center off Rays starter Yonny Chirinos (7-3).
LeMahieu’s eighth home run of the season made him 15-for-35 (.429) with two outs and RISP. Overall with RISP, he’s 28-for-60 (.467).
Tanaka retired the first nine Rays before Meadows led off the fourth with a single off the rightfield wall.
Maybin made it 3-0 with a leadoff homer in the fifth. It was the third homer in three games and fourth overall for Maybin (3-for-3), who is in danger of losing his roster spot when both Stanton and Judge return.
Tanaka did the rest. In the seventh, with Adam Ottavino warming, Tanaka got the 3-4-5 hitters in the Rays order (Brandon Lowe, Avisail Garcia and Ji-Man Choi) on a foul pop and two strikeouts.
Zack Britton warmed up while Tanaka set down the Rays 1-2-3 in the eighth. Tanaka ended the inning with a flourish, striking out Joey Wendle on his 100th pitch – a 92-mile per hour fastball.
The Yankees acquired Encarnacion from Seattle for minor-league pitcher Juan Then on Saturday and activated him Monday. Cashman said the search for starting pitching will continue until the July 31 trade deadline, which is a hard deadline under a new rule that forbids trades after that date.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
Most consecutive games with a homer in Yankees history:
25 1941 Yankees
20 2019 Yankees
17 1961 Yankees