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Yankees beat Tigers despite managing only two hits

Gleyber Torres' two-run homer backs Masahiro Tanaka.

Gleyber Torres of the New York Yankees watches

Gleyber Torres of the New York Yankees watches his two-run homer sail over the leftfield fence against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 1, 2018.   Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Andrew McCutchen had a mostly quiet debut in pinstripes and Gary Sanchez’s return didn’t produce much in the way of noise, either.

On this Saturday afternoon, though, it didn’t matter – nor did the Yankees’ rather sad hit total of two. 

With Masahiro Tanaka throwing seven terrific innings and a suddenly resurgent Gleyber Torres hitting a two-run homer, the Yankees squeezed out a 2-1 victory over the Tigers in front of 42,816 at the Stadium.

“We have one more month to go in the regular season,” Tanaka said through his translator. “Just to be able to come up with the win today, it’s a really good start going into the last stretch of the season.”

Tanaka  (10-5, 3.83 ERA) allowed one run and seven hits in seven innings, pitching out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the first with only one run scoring and escaping a second-and-third, none-out situation in the seventh without allowing a run.  Tanaka, who has allowed two or fewer earned runs in seven of his last nine starts and has a 2.68 ERA in that stretch, walked one and struck out seven.

“I think he leaned on the fastball a little more than he has, really, in any other start,” Aaron Boone said. “Obviously, the split and the slider play such a big factor for him, as they were again today, but he made some really good pitches with the fastball as well. I thought his stuff all day was good.”

The Yankees (86-50), now 3-3 on a seven-game homestand that ends Sunday afternoon, trailed 1-0 before Torres’ two-run homer with one out in the fifth made it 2-1. It was the Yankees' first hit (Aaron Hicks reached on an infield squibber in the sixth). On Friday night, they were held hitless for 5 1/3 innings by Jordan Zimmermann  before hitting three home runs in the sixth. 

Jonathan Holder pitched a scoreless eighth and Dellin Betances, who blew the save and took the loss Thursday night when he allowed back-to-back homers in the Tigers' three-run ninth, rebounded with a scoreless ninth to earn his second save. His strikeout of Jeimer Candelario to start the inning gave him 100  this season, making Betances the first reliever in MLB history to record at least 100 strikeouts in five straight seasons.

“It means a lot,” said Betances, a failed starter who made four straight All-Star teams (2014-17) as a reliever and could have made a fifth this season. “From 2014, I’ve been able to stay healthy, which has been key.”

Daniel Norris, activated from the disabled list earlier in the day and making his first start since April 29, was perfect through four innings before walking Hicks to start the fifth. After Sanchez, who was activated from the disabled list Saturday morning, flied to the warning track in left-center, Torres hammered a 1-and-0 slider to left for his 22nd homer and a 2-1 lead. He came into the day 9-for-14 with two homers on the homestand and 22-for-54 with three homers in his previous 15 games.

“He pitched really well the first few innings,” said Torres, who saw two sliders in a six-pitch at-bat in which he struck  out looking on a fastball in the second inning. “My second at-bat, I was feeling a lot more confidence and was just waiting for a really good pitch I can hit and I got good contact.”  

Norris left the game a batter later when, after throwing a ball to Luke Voit that evened the count at 2-and-2, he experienced cramping in his left calf.

Tanaka immediately faced a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the first after allowing three soft hits.Mikie Mahtook started with a grounder into the hole at short that went as an infield single and Jim Adduci followed with a squibber to the left of the plate. Nicholas Castellanos then flared a single to left to load the bases.

Victor Martinez’s sacrifice fly to short left made it 1-0 and Tanaka kept it there, striking out Niko Goodrum and getting Ronny Rodriguez to fly to left.

Tanaka then cruised until the seventh, when Grayson Greiner led off with a double and JaCoby Jones dumped a single to center before stealing second. But with runners on second and third, Dawel Lugo grounded to first and Tanaka struck out Mahtook and Adduci, both on splitters, to end the threat.

Like Boone, Tanaka thought his fastball led the way.

“I think it was there tonight, except for on that double in the seventh,” he said. “I feel like I was able to control the fastball for the most part, so I think it was one of those days where my fastball was pretty good.”

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