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Masahiro Tanaka threw his first complete game of the season on Saturday, pitching the New York Yankees to a 4-1 win over their chief American League East rivals, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Needing a big game with the Yankees’ bullpen spent, Tanaka (9-5) allowed a run on five hits and three walks and struck out eight in a 112-pitch outing as the Yankees won their third straight and moved 1½ games ahead of Toronto in the AL East.

“Even I didn’t see this (complete game win) coming,” said Tanaka, who had good action on all his pitches and got away with the few mistakes he did make. “It’s the best way to win.

“Everything felt good as I threw and I had great help from (catcher John Ryan) Murphy, who called a great game for me.”

In his previous outing, Tanaka took the loss against the Jays when he surrendered two solo homers in a 2-0 defeat to Marco Estrada (10-7), who this time was victimized by the long ball. Carlos Beltran went deep for the Yankees in the first. After Tanaka pitched out of a tough spot in the fifth, when Toronto tied it, Mark Teixeira hit his 31st homer of the year to give New York the lead for good.

Although the big-hitting Blue Jays were consistently able to get runners on, they were unable to finish the job. In the bottom of the fifth, the Blue Jays loaded the bases with no outs on two four-pitch walks and a scratch single. Josh Donaldson, who homered off Tanaka on Sunday, flied out for a game-tying sac fly, but Jose Bautista struck out swinging at a split-fingered fastball out of the zone. Tanaka got out of the inning when Edwin Encarcion, a personal nemesis, hit a soft liner to second for the final out.

Six days after Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled Tanaka after 80 pitches, he was quizzed about allowing the right-hander to go the distance for the fourth time as a Yankee.

“You watch how he’s throwing, evaluate the pitches, make sure the guy’s not overthrowing or overexerting himself. He didn’t really have a long inning today. So I decided to leave him out there,” Girardi said. “I wanted to see how he was throwing, and he looked crisp. He threw a lot of pitches in the ninth.

“He’s had some really good starts for us. I thought he threw pretty good the last time against Toronto. He gave up the two runs in six innings and it was the first time we’d thrown him on regular rest, so we were a bit more careful. We know that he can do this.”

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