SEATTLE — After an unimpressive outing his last time out, Thursday night in Oakland, Masahiro Tanaka lamented a rough three-run first inning.
“It’s on me, I shouldn’t have let that happen in the first inning,” Tanaka said after the loss to the A’s in which he allowed five runs in six innings. "That was a bad start for the game. I take responsibility for today’s game.”
The 30-year-old had nothing to lament Tuesday night and could claim plenty of responsibility for the outcome, throwing seven scoreless innings in the Yankees’ 7-0 victory over the Mariners in front of 23,129 at T-Mobile Park.
“A really good three-pitch mix for him tonight where he was really in command of all of them,” Aaron Boone said.
The Yankees, jump-started by Aaron Judge’s massive first-inning homer that traveled an estimated 462 feet and later by Brett Gardner’s three-run shot in the third, improved to 87-47 and pushed their AL East lead over the Rays to 10 1/2 games.
Tanaka, badly outdueling fellow Japanese countryman Yusei Kikuchi, did not allow a hit until the fifth and gave up three overall. Tanaka, now 10-7 with a 4.47 ERA, struck out seven and walked one.
“I think first and foremost, the early runs from our offense, I think that helped out,” Tanaka said through his translator. “As far as pitches go, I thought my off-speed stuff, the splitter and slider, I think I had good command on those. That was working for me today.”
The homers by Judge and Gardner gave the Yankees 66 this month, which extended the club’s most-homers-in-a-calendar-month record (the previous mark was 58). The Yankees, who improved to 4-4 on this nine-game, three-city trip that started last week with a sweep at the hands of the A’s, go for a three-game sweep against the Mariners (56-77) on Wednesday afternoon.
“We have a short memory over here,” Judge said. “So even what happened early on this road trip, we just move on and get ready for the next one.”
James Paxton, a former Mariner, faces Justus Sheffield, a former Yankee, in a matchup of pitchers essentially traded for each other last November (the Mariners also received prospects Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams).
“It’s been nice to see,” said Gardner, whose three-run homer in the third made it 5-0 and gave him 18 home runs this season. “Obviously didn’t play our best ball in Oakland, but going into L.A., playing a really tough team there and winning that series and coming in here and continuing to play well says a lot about our team.”
Five pitches into Tuesday night’s game, the Yankees had the lead and didn’t look back.
DJ LeMahieu led off with a single against Kikuchi (5-9, 5.36), who allowed five runs and eight hits in four innings, and Judge followed by destroying a first-pitch fastball to dead center for his 17th homer and fifth in his last eight games.
“One only a few guys can hit like that,” Boone said of the Judge shot that hit about halfway up the batter’s eye in center.
Judge, in a horrible slump the first part of the month, is 15-for-42 (.357) with five homers and eight RBIs his last 10 games.
“When he’s locked in and at his best, he’s the best player on the field,” Gardner said of Judge. “And I think we’re seeing that the last week or so.”
The blast gave Judge 100 homers in 371 career games. Only Ryan Howard (325 games) and Judge’s teammate, Gary Sanchez (355 games), have reached the 100-homer plateau faster. Sanchez achieved his milestone Friday at Dodger Stadium.
“Just the start I guess,” Judge said. “Quite an accomplishment. Very few guys have gotten a chance to do that and I’m humbled and honored by that. But we have to keep moving forward.”