FORT MYERS, FLORIDA – New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka allowed three runs over 5⅔ innings on Saturday and earned the win in a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
Tanaka, who has shown periodic lack of control but plenty of movement on his pitches in his first big league spring training, continued in that vein against the Twins, who saw every pitch in the 25-year-old’s arsenal. He gave up five hits, including a pair of doubles, while walking one, hitting another and striking out six.
“You could say that what stands out is that there were good innings and bad ones,” Tanaka said of his fourth exhibition start. “I wished I had done more when I had pitcher’s counts.”
Minnesota struck for a run in the bottom of the first inning at Hammond Stadium. Brian Dozier doubled on a 1-0 pitch to lead off the inning, and came home after advancing one base at a time on a pair of grounders.
Tanaka barely escaped a huge jam in the third, when Josh Willingham just missed a hanging two-seam fastball and drove it to the wall in left with two outs and the bases loaded. But the ball was caught and the Twins were retired.
“I need to increase my control on some pitches,” Tanaka said.
“I’ve seen him sharper,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I thought the first three innings, he lost a little of his command, but overall I was pleased. I don’t think he had his great stuff today, but he got it done.”
The Yankees put four on the board in the top of the fourth inning with the help of some erratic defense. The tying run scored on a wild pitch by Twins starter Kevin Correia. Yankees journeyman Scott Sizemore singled in two more and minor leaguer Zelous Wheeler capped the outburst with a double.
Once he had the lead, Tanaka did what he did last year in Japan, when he went 24-0: crank it up. He went on a tear, sharply retiring the side in order in both the fourth and fifth innings before his lack of control cost him again in the sixth.
Twins veteran Kurt Suzuki hit a smash that shortstop Eduardo Nunez failed to grab for a leadoff single. After Tanaka struck out Twins star Joe Mauer, he got a pitch up over the heart of the plate and Jason Kubel drilled an RBI double to the wall in right. Another groundout plated another run and Tanaka was pulled.
While Tanaka continued to miss with a lot of his deliveries, his ability to go from pitch to pitch seemed to have the Twins hitters constantly playing catch up and unable to exploit many of the hittable pitches they did see.
“My form has been improving, little by little,” Tanaka said. “I want to be diligent and keep at that.”
New York added an insurance run in the seventh, and Yoshinori Tateyama, who is in camp with the Yankees on a minor league contract, worked the ninth inning to earn the save.
Tateyama allowed a one-out, solo homer to Twins prospect Jose Escobar, but it was the first run the side-arm righty has given up in seven preseason innings. Tateyama struck out the other three batters he faced.
Dodgers sweep D-Backs
Sydney — Yasiel Puig had three hits and two RBIs to back a scoreless outing by Ryu Hyun-jin, and the Los Angeles Dodgers made it 2 for 2 Down Under with a 7-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.
Dee Gordon and Juan Uribe also had three hits for the Dodgers, who finished with 13 in beating Arizona starter Trevor Cahill for the first time.
After a 3-1 win behind ace Clayton Kershaw in the season opener Saturday night, Los Angeles remained perfect at Sydney Cricket Ground with its second consecutive victory over its NL West rival in Australia.
Cahill (0-1) came in 6-0 with a 2.01 ERA in 10 career starts against the Dodgers, but left in the fifth trailing 3-0. He gave up eight hits with just one strikeout and was charged with five runs in four-plus innings.
The Diamondbacks made three errors, two by catcher Miguel Montero.
After trailing 7-0, Arizona scored once in the eighth and four times in the ninth, including Mark Trumbo’s two-run homer off closer Kenley Jansen with two outs.
Jansen struck out Gerardo Parra to end a game that featured 14 pitchers and lasted a minute more than 4 hours.
Beginning his second season in the majors, Ryu (1-0) held the Diamondbacks to two hits in five shutout innings. He struck out five and walked one.
The left-hander had a strong rookie season last year, going 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA in 30 starts after seven seasons in South Korea.
Trumbo also had an RBI single in the eighth, his first hit for the Diamondbacks. Martin Prado had a two-run single in the ninth.