(Updated: CORRECTS foot to ankle injury and adds Tanaka making 100th start in graph 2)
The New York Yankees are showing no signs of losing their lead in the American League wild card race as they host the Seattle Mariners on Sunday in the rubber match of their three-game series. The Yankees prevailed 6-3 on Saturday and are four games clear of the Mariners, who are one-half game behind the Minnesota Twins for the second wild card spot.
New York trimmed its deficit behind first-place Boston in the American League East to 3 1/2 games with the slumping Red Sox, losers of three straight, coming to Yankee Stadium for a four-game series next weekend. New York has won eight of its last 12 games and got a boost Saturday from the return of first baseman Greg Bird, who went 1-for-2 with two walks and a run scored in his first game since May 1. “I think he can have a big impact,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters about Bird, who missed all of 2016 and 108 games this season with shoulder and ankle injuries. New York’s Masahiro Tanaka, who makes his 100th career start, is 5-0 with a 2.51 ERA in six starts versus Seattle and opposes Andrew Albers, who is 2-0 in two starts since taking injured James Paxton’s spot in the rotation after being acquired from the Braves organization.
TV: 1:05 p.m. ET, TBS, ROOT (Seattle), YES (New York)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Mariners LH Andrew Albers (2-0, 3.60 ERA) vs. Yankees RH Masahiro Tanaka (9-10, 4.86)
Albers allowed four runs (three earned), six hits and one walk while striking out three in five innings of a 6-5 victory in Atlanta on Monday. The 31-year-old Canadian permitted a run and six hits in five innings of a 3-1 win over Baltimore on Aug. 15 in his Seattle debut. Albers made 10 starts with Minnesota in 2013, one relief appearance with Toronto in 2015 and pitched in six games (two starts) with the Twins in 2016, and is 4-5 with a 4.32 ERA in 89 2/3 innings for his career.
Tanaka returned from the disabled list (shoulder) and yielded three runs and six hits while striking out four in 90 pitches over seven innings of a 13-4 victory in Detroit on Tuesday. The 28-year-old Japan native’s only no-decision versus the Mariners came July 22, when he allowed four runs in six innings of New York’s 6-5 loss. Tanaka has fared well against Nelson Cruz (2-for-21, seven strikeouts) and Robinson Cano (4-for-19, home run).
1. Cano (hamstring) didn’t start for the second straight game Saturday but grounded out as pinch hitter in the eighth inning and played second base in the bottom half.
2. With Bird’s return, the Yankees’ Chase Headley played third base Saturday for the first time since July 18. Headley was the regular third baseman before New York acquired Todd Frazier, prompting Headley’s switch to first base.
3. The home team is 6-15 in the last 21 meetings after the Yankees snapped a stretch in which they scored four runs or fewer in 13 straight home games versus Seattle.
PREDICTION: Yankees 3, Mariners 2