BOSTON – Masahiro Tanaka continued his strong postseason run, pitching the New York Yankees to a 6-2 win over the Boston Red Sox in Game 2 of their American League Divisional Series on Saturday.
Tanaka (1-0) allowed a run on three hits and a walk over five innings, while striking out four. Although he had good movement, he often struggled to locate his pitches. Tanaka made few mistakes in the strike zone, but had one pitch blasted over Fenway Park’s center field wall for a solo home run.
“He was executing all his pitches, especially in 3-1 counts. That’s why he was effective,” said Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who homered twice and drove in four runs.
The Yankees’ win tied the best-of-five series 1-1. Tanaka improved his career postseason record in the majors to 3-2, although his ERA rose from 1.44 to 1.50.
“I think I did as well as I could,” said Tanaka, who had allowed five runs against the Red Sox over four innings in a Sept. 20 start at Yankee Stadium. “Compared to my previous two games, my split was better. It was completely different.
“Heading home (to New York for Game 3) with the series 1-1 is huge. This is the best possible outcome.”
The Yankees jumped out in front against David Price on Aaron Judge’s first-inning solo home run to left center. Sanchez made it 2-0 by leading off the second with another high shot over Fenway’s iconic left field wall, the Green Monster.
After Sanchez’s home run, a pair of two-out walks set the table for Andrew McCutchen’s single high off the wall in left.
Tanaka gave one run back in the fourth, when Xander Bogaerts tattooed a first-pitch fastball that missed up and in the heart of the zone. Tanaka issued a two-out, four-pitch walk but battled back to end the inning with a swinging strikeout.
“We expanded (the zone) tonight,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “His split was a lot better. We were very disciplined in New York, but not tonight. We expanded and he did a good job. (When) it seemed like we had him on the ropes or in counts in our favor, he got back in the count and then he threw a split or a slider and we expanded.”
Tanaka was pulled after five innings with the Yankees leading 3-1 and the Red Sox bullpen holding steady. Things got testy on the field when Sanchez came to the plate in the fifth. With two on and two outs, former Hiroshima Carp right-hander Ryan Brasier shouted at Sanchez to get into the batter’s box. Brasier then made Sanchez his third strikeout victim of the inning.
Sanchez put the game out of reach with his three-run home run in the seventh off lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, who had allowed a single and a walk.
The Red Sox got a run back in the bottom of the seventh off the Yankees’ second pitcher, Dellin Betances. Zach Britton and Aroldis Chapman worked the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, to close it out for the Yanks.
Price (0-1) was charged with three runs on three hits and two walks over 1-2/3 innings.
“After having won Game 1, having the opportunity to go out and go up 2-0, to throw the baseball the way that I did was definitely tough,” Price said. “I’m looking forward to getting back out there and getting another opportunity.”
“They make it tough for me, and I had to go out and execute pitches in big counts and I couldn’t.”
Astros 3, Indians 1
In Houston, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have been even more brilliant in the playoffs, keeping Cleveland’s powerful offense in check to give the Astros a 2-0 lead in the AL Division Series.
Cole struck out 12 and walked none, combining with two relievers on Houston’s second straight three-hitter in a 3-1 victory Saturday.
“There’s no doubt we expect to be good, but this is a team effort,” Cole said. “So, we expect to keep our team in the ballgame. I don’t know about all the personal accolades or all the dominance or that kind of stuff, but we just want to put up a fight.”
Marwin Gonzalez hit a go-ahead, two-run double and Alex Bregman homered for the second straight day.
Next up: 2015 AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel will oppose Mike Clevinger in Game 3 of this best-of-five series on Monday in Cleveland.
Francisco Lindor hit a third-inning homer for the AL Central champion Indians, who have three runs in the two games. Cleveland is batting .100 (6-for-60) following a regular season in which the Indians ranked second in the majors with a .259 average. Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson have combined to go 1-for-22.
“This is one of the best offenses in the league,” manager AJ Hinch said. “They can do damage. They can put long at-bats together. (Cole) used all his pitches. He was creative. What else can I say? He was awesome.”
Gonzalez put the Astros ahead in the sixth with the third of his four hits, an opposite-field double to right off usually reliable reliever Andrew Miller.
“With a one-run lead, and with Gonzalez coming up the way he had swung the bat against him prior and Andrew’s history, I felt really good about it,” manager Terry Francona said. “Didn’t work out the way we obviously planned.”
Bregman homered against Trevor Bauer in the seventh, and the World Series champions moved within a win of a second straight trip to the AL Championship Series.
Cole allowed one run and three hits in seven innings, joining Tom Seaver (1973) as the only pitchers to strike out at least 12 batters without a walk in a postseason game.
Ryan Pressly got two outs, and Roberto Osuna walked one in a four-out save.
Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco allowed two runs and six hits in 5⅓ innings.