Masahiro Tanaka won an early pitching duel as the New York Yankees defeated the host Tampa Bay Rays 7-1 on Sunday afternoon.
The Yankees have won six straight three-game series, taking the rubber contest in this matchup. They moved to within one-half game of the Rays in the American League East.
Rays left-hander Blake Snell (3-4) took the loss. The reigning AL Cy Young winner, who went 21-5 last year, struck out 12 batters — one short of his career high — in just 5 2/3 innings, allowing four hits, two walks and two runs. All 12 strikeouts were swinging — seven on his fastball and five on his curve.
Tanaka (3-3) wasn’t as flashy as Snell. But Tanaka — who is 9-4 in his career against the Rays — struck out seven and allowed just five hits and no walks in seven innings.
He also retired 12 consecutive batters from the second through the sixth innings and fired first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 26 hitters he faced. In all, Tanaka required just 73 pitches, 55 for strikes.
The game marked the major league debut for Rays catcher Anthony Bemboom, who went 0-for-2. Bemboon, a 22nd-round pick of the Angels in 2012, is the oldest player to make his MLB debut for the Rays (age 29).
Snell was perfect for the first three innings, striking out seven of the nine batters he faced.
However, the Yankees broke out to a 2-0 lead in the fifth. With two outs and nobody on, Austin Romine stroked a line-drive double to left-center, and he scored on Mike Tauchman’s double off the wall in center that missed being a home run by a few inches. DJ LeMahieu then poked an opposite-field single to right to score Tauchman.
That snapped Snell’s 10-inning scoreless streak during which he had allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out 19.
Tampa Bay cut its deficit to 2-1 in the sixth on Austin Meadows’ eighth homer of the season. He golfed a low sinker that traveled 418 feet to right-center.
New York extended its lead to 3-1 in the eighth. Luke Voit drew a leadoff walk, advanced to second on a Brett Gardner single and to third on a groundout. Reliever Ryne Stanek then threw a wild pitch over Bemboom, and Voit slid home to score on a close play.
Tampa Bay put runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the eighth, but Yankees reliever Zack Britton escaped by striking out two straight batters.
The Yankees put the game away with four runs in the ninth — all of it after a 43-minute power-outage delay inside domed Tropicana Field.
—Field Level Media