Watching the Yankees flex their muscles and kick sand in the Twins’ faces on Monday night was impressive and an indication there are more offensive outbursts on the way.
Yet, more important than the laser show delivered by Miguel Andujar, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius and Tyler Austin was a Yankees starter going deep enough in a victory to again keep Aaron Boone away from wearing out the dugout phone line to the bullpen.
After Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino delivered solid starts on Saturday and Sunday, it was up to Masahiro Tanaka, who was coming off two subpar performances, to make it three consecutive quality outings.
Tanaka responded and helped the Yankees to a 14-1 win in front of 39,249 at Yankee Stadium.
“The bullpen is one of the overwhelming strengths of this club, but you got to be able to protect those guys and you can’t use them to death, especially early in the season or you are going to run into problems,’’ Boone said after the Yankees’ third straight win and fourth in fifth games raised their record to 12-9. “The best way to do that is with quality starting pitching. We have gotten that three times in a row and it is what we think we are capable of. And the add-on runs late allows you to protect those high-leverage guys even more.’’
Tanaka’s previous starts against the Red Sox and Marlins weren’t good. He went 1-1 with a 10.80 ERA and allowed 15 hits and four walks in 10 innings. Most alarming was the miserable Marlins scoring seven runs (six earned) and getting eight hits in five innings of a 9-1 loss last Tuesday.
“I had two bad starts and I had to keep it simple going into the game,’’ said Tanaka, who allowed the Twins one run and three hits in 6 ²/₃ innings. “I had to execute the plan and I felt I did a good job of that.’’
The plan included using his fastball on the inner half and it worked.
“The fastball command was there tonight more than any other game this season,’’ said Tanaka, who is 3-2 overall this season and 5-0 in five career starts against the Twins. “Because that was effective I could use the splitter and slider.’’
Montgomery, Severino and Tanaka are 3-0 with a tidy 1.37 ERA in the past three games.
The Yankees beating the Twins isn’t new. They are 15-4 in regular-season games against them since July 25, 2015, 51-21 since 2008 and have won six of the last seven series. That doesn’t include the Twins flushing a 3-0 first-inning lead on the way to losing last year’s AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.
A six-run eighth inning that included Gregorius’ grand slam turned it into a laugher, but when Tanaka departed in the seventh the Yankees led, 5-1. Chad Green walked Jason Castro to put runners at first and second but popped up Brian Dozier to strand two.
As for the power show, Stanton went 4-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs. Austin, who homered off center fielder Ryan LaMarre in the eighth, and Gregorius each drove in four runs. Andujar went 2-for-5 and Gleyber Torres’ single in the eighth was his first major league hit.
“If we are able to do what we did tonight on an everyday basis we are going to have the opportunity to score a lot of runs,’’ said Gary Sanchez, who drove in two first-inning runs with a double off the left-center field wall.
Sanchez is correct about the potential of a very lethal lineup that has received a huge boost from Andujar. However, Boone pointing out that it is up to the starters to protect the relievers is more important in the big picture.
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