NEW YORK - Masahiro Tanaka walked off the mound and tipped his cap to fans after one of his most dominant performances since signing with the New York Yankees in January 2014.
He struck out 15 over seven innings, his highest total since coming to the major leagues, allowed three hits and walked none to lead the playoff-bound New York Yankees over the Toronto Blue Jays 4-0 on Friday and keep New York on the edge of contention in the AL East.
If only every start was like this.
“It’s pretty obvious that there was a lot of ups and downs this season,” he said through a translator. “I understand what I’ve done wrong and all that, but I’m not really open to share that at this time.”
Tanaka (13-12) had five outings in which he gave up seven or eight runs but also had eight in which he allowed one run or none. He finished with a 4.74 ERA and yielded 35 homers — 10 more than his previous major league high.
“I knew that I needed to be aggressive,” he said. “Maybe I was lacking it a little bit.”
Already assured no worse than hosting a wild-card game against Minnesota, the Yankees began the day three games behind AL East-leading Boston with three games left. New York could take the division only by beating the Blue Jays both Saturday and Sunday, having Boston lose three in a row to Houston and then defeating the Red Sox in a tiebreaker game Monday at Yankee Stadium.
Tanaka retired the first 14 batters before Ezequiel Carerra reached on an infield single up the middle just past Tanaka’s glove. Second baseman Starlin Castro made a backhand stop with a dive and threw off-balance from his knees, but Carerra easily beat a one-hop throw.
Pitching on six days’ rest, Tanaka dominated a team that battered him for eight runs and three homers at Toronto on Sept. 22. He allowed three hits and walked none.
“You can’t pick up that split,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “Boom! It just drops.”
David Robertson pitched a hitless eighth, and Dellin Betances was pulled after throwing just three of eight pitches for strikes. He allowed a hit and a walk.
Marlins 6, Braves 5
In Miami, Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton had two hits, but remained at 59 home runs.
Marcell Ozuna drove in three runs for the Marlins, who trailed 5-0 heading into the sixth inning.
Adam Conley (8-8) worked a scoreless seventh for the win, and Brad Ziegler got two outs for his 10th save.
Marlins pinch hitter Ichiro Suzuki flied out to short in the ninth, leaving him one hit short of equaling John Vander Wal’s single-season record of 28 pinch hits.
Astros 3, Red Sox 2
In Boston, the Red Sox once again failed to clinch the AL East, and Houston won its 100th game.
Rockies 9, Dodgers 1
In Denver, Nolan Arenado hit the first of Colorado’s four homers, and Chad Bettis picked up his second win since his return from testicular cancer.
Brewers 5, Cardinals 3
In St. Louis, Stephen Vogt homered and drove in three runs, Chase Anderson pitched seven solid innings, and Milwaukee kept its playoff hopes alive.
Twins 6, Tigers 3
In Minneapolis, Brian Dozier belted a three-run homer in the second inning, leading the hosts over Detroit.
Cubs 5, Reds 4
In Chicago, Ian Happ hit a three-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning, and the Cubs won for the 14th time in 17 games.
Nationals 6, Pirates 1
In Washington, Stephen Strasburg pitched 7⅔ shutout innings for the Nationals, and Ryan Zimmerman homered twice.
Strasburg (15-4) gave up two hits, struck out eight and walked two. He is 5-1 with a 0.84 ERA since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 19.
Indians 10, White Sox 1
In Cleveland, Edwin Encarnacion bashed a three-run double for the AL Central champion Indians, and Jay Bruce and Jose Ramirez drove in two runs apiece.
Royals 2, Diamondbacks 1
In Kansas City, the Royals’ Ian Kennedy picked up his first home victory in more than a year.
Rangers 5, Athletics 3
In Arlington, Texas, Choo Shin-soo tied a career high with his 22nd home run, helping the Rangers end a seven-game skid.
Rays 7, Orioles 0
In St. Petersburg, Florida, Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison homered, and Tampa Bay clinched third place in the AL East.
Phillies 6, Mets 2
In Philadelphia, Maikel Franco, Jorge Alfaro and Cesar Hernandez homered, powering Philadelphia past New York.
Norichika Aoki went 2-for-5 for the Mets in the loss.
Giants 8, Padres 0
In San Francisco, Buster Posey belted three RBI doubles, Brandon Crawford drove in three runs and had three hits, and the Giants ensured they won’t finish with a 100-loss season.
Angels 6, Mariners 5
In Anaheim, Mike Trout hit two homers and Los Angeles rallied past Seattle.