Baseball / MLB

Masahiro Tanaka helps lift Yankees to win over Blue Jays

Kyodo, AP

Masahiro Tanaka claimed his sixth win of the season and 70th of his major league career on Sunday in the New York Yankees’ 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Tanaka (6-5) allowed two solo homers in the fifth, which tied the game at Yankee Stadium, but Gio Urshela slid home on a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning to put the Yankees back on top.

Tanaka struck out five over six innings without issuing a walk.

“Among my recent starts, I think it was a good game overall,” said Tanaka, who became the first Japanese pitcher to win an All-Star Game on Tuesday.

“My splitter was good, and I worked a lot of swinging strikes with the fastball. We had a close contest on Saturday, so it’s big for the team to rebound here and collect a win.”

Aaron Judge was near the batter’s box and got a pretty good view of Urshela’s nifty slide at the plate in the fifth inning. The Yankees slugger is sure the club wouldn’t have one of the best records in the majors if it wasn’t for the contributions from a player considered to be a utility man coming into this season.

“We wouldn’t be in first place without Gio,” said Judge after New York improved to 59-32 this season and 20-6 against the American League East since May 19.

“The changes he’s made in the offseason, the adjustments he’s made, the work he’s put in, it’s finally showing and paying off.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone praised Urshela’s play on both sides of the field ever since he plugged the 27-year-old across his infield to cover for his other injured starters.

He found out Urshela’s base-running isn’t too shabby either.

“It’s a really special slide he put on,” Boone said. “It was a very athletic play by him and obviously a big play at the time.”

The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on Urshela’s two-run single to left field off Toronto starter Marcus Stroman (5-10).

Stroman, a New York native, started for the first time since June 29 after being sidelined with a left pectoral cramp. He gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings while striking out seven and walking two.

Tanaka was cruising through the first four innings before Randal Grichuk led off the fifth by driving Tanaka’s fastball over the right-center field fence. It was his 16th homer of the season.

After Tanaka struck out Danny Jansen and got Teoscar Hernandez to fly out, Eric Sogard cleared the short porch in right field for his 10th home run.

Urshela led off the bottom half of the inning with an infield single and his athleticism took over when he put the Yankees back ahead on a heads-up play when he scored on Stroman’s two-out wild pitch with Judge at the plate.

Urshela, who was picked up by the Yankees in an August 2018 deal with the Blue Jays and was assigned to the minors, has wowed the team with an array of Gold Glove-worthy stops in the infield and timely hitting.

“Every time I go (out) there it’s very fun playing for this team,” said Urshela, who’s reached career highs with 41 RBIs and 70 hits to go along with a .302 average.

“Since spring training when I got here, it’s really fun.”

Jansen got a good carom and raced to the plate. Instead of flipping the ball to Stroman, the Toronto catcher appeared to tag Urshela on the letters on his jersey.

But Urshela somehow managed to get his left foot right across home.

New York challenged and got the call reversed.

“A crazy good slide by Gio Urshela,” Stroman said. “It was just one of those slides where he kind of avoided him and he just kind of slid his left leg in there.”

Said Jansen: “I should have just threw my body right on the plate like I’m supposed to do. He made a nice slide and it kind of freaked me out.”

Angels 6, Mariners 3

In Anaheim, Seattle starter Yusei Kikuchi had his second MLB meeting with the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani during a loss against Los Angeles.

Kikuchi, who is 4-6 with a 5.01 ERA in his rookie season, gave up three runs and four walks while pitching into the fifth. He did not factor in the decision.

“My fastball felt good. Somehow I stuck it out, not like it went in my previous games against the Angels,” said Kikuchi, who has surrendered 20 runs, 19 earned, in 15⅔ innings against the Halos.

Ohtani drew a walk from Kikuchi in the first, but the Mariners lefty fanned the two-way star with a slider in the third. The Angels’ designated hitter drove in a tying run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth, and singled in the seventh but was left on base.

Los Angeles rookie Matt Thaiss hit his first career home run, a three-run go-ahead blast in the eighth, to complete the Angels’ three-game sweep.

“We couldn’t get many hits (off Kikuchi), but we scored some runs on walks,” Ohtani said. “The flow of the game wasn’t bad. Our team is in good shape. It’s important to rally in the second half of the game and win like we did today.”

Los Angeles star outfielder Mike Trout left the game before the third inning due to right calf tightness.

Rays 4, Orioles 1

In Baltimore, Tampa Bay took a combined perfect game into the ninth inning before Hanser Alberto beat the shift with a leadoff single against Ryan Yarbrough, wrecking history in the making and taking some of the edge off the Rays’ win over the Orioles.

Ryne Stanek pitched the first two innings before Yarbrough took over. Yarbrough was literally unhittable — until the ninth.

Tampa Bay’s try for the first combo perfect game in the majors came two days after a pair of Los Angeles Angels pitchers teamed up for a no-hitter.

Alberto pushed a grounder to the right side, precisely where the second baseman usually stands. Stevie Wilkerson followed with a single, and an RBI single by Anthony Santander off Oliver Drake enabled Baltimore to break up the shutout.

Indians 4, Twins 3

In Cleveland, Carlos Santana hit a solo home run that broke a seventh-inning tie and the Indians avoided a sweep against AL Central-leading Minnesota.

Santana lined an 0-2 pitch from Trevor May (3-2) into the right-field seats for his 21st homer of the season.

Shane Bieber took a three-hit shutout into the seventh before the Twins rallied with three runs and tied the game.

Dodgers 7, Red Sox 4 (12)

In Boston, Max Muncy drew a bases-loaded walk and Alex Verdugo had an RBI single during a three-run 12th inning as Los Angeles beat the Red Sox in another late-night showdown of last year’s pennant winners.

The teams needed 5 hours, 40 minutes to decide the series finale. It was the Dodgers’ third win in 14 tries (including World Series games) at Fenway Park.

Boston got back-to-back homers from Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez in the eighth against Pedro Báez but stranded seven runners over the final four innings.

Los Angeles’ Joc Pederson opened the 12th with a walk against Hector Velázquez (1-4), and Cody Bellinger was awarded first base by the umpires when he collided with the pitcher as he was running down the line after first baseman Brock Holt bobbled his grounder.

A.J. Pollock singled before Muncy drew his go-ahead walk. Verdugo then singled, making it 6-4. A third run came on Russell Martin’s fielder’s choice.

Dylan Floro (4-2) pitched 1⅓ scoreless innings for the victory. Former Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly struck out the final two batters for his first save.

Phillies 4, Nationals 3

In Philadelphia, Maikel Franco homered with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning and the Phillies avoided a sweep.

J.T. Realmuto, who had an RBI single in the fourth, also homered for Philadelphia, which also got a two-run single from Jean Segura.

Trea Turner, Matt Adams and Howie Kendrick drove in runs for Washington, which lost for just the third time in 15 games. Matt Grace (0-2) took the loss.

Washington’s pitching staff entered having allowed 102 homers, fewest in the NL and second-fewest in the majors behind Tampa Bay.

Braves 4, Padres 1

In San Diego, Freddie Freeman hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning and All-Star rookie Mike Soroka struck out a career-high nine to win his 10th straight decision as Atlanta finished off a three-game sweep.

The NL East-leading Braves have won seven of eight.

In Other Games

Cubs 8, Pirates 3

Rockies 10, Reds 9

Mets 6, Marlins 2

Giants 8, Brewers 3

Cardinals 5, Diamondbacks 2

Tigers 12, Royals 8

Athletics 3, White Sox 2

Astros 12, Rangers 4