If the game was close and Tanaka had not pitched so deep, Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said his options would have been Zack Britton and Chapman despite a 10-man bullpen, which included the additions of the rookies Joe Mantiply and Brady Lail on Sunday. The others had pitched recently or were needed for Monday.
Tanaka “was really pitch-efficient, especially in the middle innings,” Boone said. “He was really cruising. We needed it.”
In all, Tanaka fired 94 pitches. His trademark pitch, his split-finger fastball, saw more gradual improvement and produced several groundouts. He threw 36 sliders, his best pitch this season, and the Blue Jays whiffed at eight. Better command of his four-seam fastball also helped.
“When he’s got all of his pitches working, that’s the kind of outing you’ll get from him,” Yankees catcher Austin Romine said.
Tanaka surrendered only three hits. The first was in the first inning by the Blue Jays’ speedy leadoff batter, Bo Bichette, who beat out an infield single on a ground ball that Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela slightly bobbled. Urshela later made it up to Tanaka by robbing a hit with a diving play in the fourth inning.
Urshela also scored the game’s only run when he doubled in the fifth inning and Brett Gardner doubled him home. Shortstop Gleyber Torres, who missed nearly a week with an unspecified “core issue,” went 0 for 3 in his return to the lineup.
Tanaka did not allow his second hit until the eighth inning, a single by Justin Smoak.
Boone considered ending Tanaka’s day after eight innings, but he let him take the mound in the ninth with a pitch count at 91. After the first batter, Brandon Drury, singled, Boone called for the well-rested Chapman. Blue Jays Manager Charlie Montoyo countered with Guerrero.