Six days earlier, Masahiro Tanaka expressed mixed feelings.
He was pleased about the Yankees’ overall superb play since the end of April and disappointed about his lack of consistent contribution to it.
“A lot of frustration, mostly because of how good we’re playing but not being able to pitch effectively,” Tanaka said after his fourth straight lackluster start in Texas last Monday, when he allowed four runs in five innings.
Tanaka snapped that skid Sunday afternoon. On an unseasonably chilly day featuring gusting winds and little offense, he pitched six solid innings in a 3-1 victory over the Angels in front of a sellout crowd of 46,109 at the Stadium.
“An outing we really needed today,” said Aaron Boone, whose rotation, other than Luis Severino, has experienced some bumps during the last couple of turns. “Glad to see him go out there and deliver.”
After taking two of three from the Angels (29-24), the Yankees (33-16) climbed within one game of the AL East-leading Red Sox.
Tanaka, who had a 6.46 ERA in his previous three starts, allowed one run, three hits and three walks, striking out eight. The only run off him was a home run by Andrelton Simmons with one out in the sixth that cut the Angels’ deficit to 3-1.
“Definitely one of the better ones in recent outings,” Tanaka said through his translator. “To be able to win in a small-margin game like this is good. But looking back, that last home run, that is unacceptable.”
Still, the day was far more positive than negative for Tanaka, whose fastball and splitter were particularly good.
Tanaka (6-2, 4.62 ERA) was especially tough on the Angels’ most challenging hitters. Mike Trout, who had a home run, three doubles, a single and four RBIs on Saturday night, and Shohei Ohtani went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts against Tanaka.
“I obviously witnessed the type of damage that he put on us [Saturday],” Tanaka said of Trout. “He is that key batter in that lineup and we can’t let him beat us. The thing is you do have to be careful, but at the same time, you really have to be aggressive, and I feel I was able to do that.”
David Robertson and Dellin Betances each pitched a scoreless inning in getting the ball to Aroldis Chapman. Ohtani drew a leadoff walk in the ninth, reached second on a one-out wild pitch, got to third on a two-out wild pitch and was stranded when Martin Maldonado grounded out, with Didi Gregorius making a terrific sliding stop and throw. It was Chapman’s 11th save.
The Yankees did all of their scoring in a mess of a third inning against Garrett Richards (4-4, 3.67), who allowed a hit, walked three straight batters and threw two wild pitches in the frame.
Aaron Judge led off by smoking a single to right-center — it came off the bat at 119.9 mph, the hardest-hit ball in the major leagues this season — and scored the game’s first run when Aaron Hicks drew a bases-loaded walk.
Lefthander Jose Alvarez then allowed two inherited runners to score. Greg Bird was hit by a pitch and Miguel Andujar made it 3-0 by grounding into a forceout.
Richards was charged with three runs and allowed three hits and five walks in 2 1⁄3 hard-to-watch innings. He threw 70 pitches, only 36 for strikes.
“I talked a lot about it when we were playing really well; we were able to win games a lot of different ways,” Boone said. “One of the common themes was good starting pitching. If we’re going to be a really good team, we need to continue to get outings like today.”