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Resilient Tanaka leads Yankees to victory in MLB debut

Masahiro Tanaka retired 16 of the last 18 batters he faced in his MLB debut.
Masahiro Tanaka retired 16 of the last 18 batters he faced in his MLB debut.
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

TORONTO – Masahiro Tanaka surrendered a home run to the first batter he faced, but quickly settled down to lead the New York Yankees to a 7-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night at the Rogers Centre.

The Yankees' prized off-season addition from Japan retired 16 of the last 18 batters he faced and completed seven innings of work without permitting a walk. Tanaka allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits while striking out eight Blue Jays.

“Obviously I’m happy,” Tanaka said through a translator. “I think number one is that I’m relieved.”

Tanaka's resiliency and ability not to be thrown out of his routine despite a rough start impressed pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

“I thought he did a lot of good things tonight and passed some tests that you hoped he wouldn’t go through early, but he did,” Rothschild said. “And it was a good night for him.”

Jacoby Ellsbury led the Yankees offensive charge on the evening, recording three hits, two runs scored, and a pair of stolen bases, while rookie infielder Yangervis Solarte recorded two more hits in his second major league start.

Trailing 3-2 in the third inning, the Yankees pulled ahead for the final time when Joe Girardi’s first replay challenge led to an overturned call at first base, allowing Ichiro Suzuki to remain on the basepaths with two outs. Solarte then ripped a two-run double which would chase Blue Jays starting pitcher Dylan McGowan after 2 2/3 innings pitched.

Brian McCann and Brett Gardner each added run-scoring singles to pad the Yankees’ lead.

The Yankees did suffer one loss on the night, as first baseman Mark Teixeira left during the second inning due to a strained right hamstring. Kelly Johnson took over as the team’s first baseman for the remainder of the game.

Teixeira will undergo further evaluation when the team returns to New York on Monday, but it seems entirely possible that he will already be on the disabled list by that point.

“Not great, but I’m not really sure exactly. We’ll see how it feels in the morning, but I’m not super optimistic about it,” Teixeira noted when talking with reporters after the game. “I was going after a ball down the line, I knew it was going to be foul, but I went and caught it anyway. I just took an awkward step, and when I landed, I felt a grab in my hamstring. It wasn’t one of those excruciating, fall-to-the-ground because of the pain, but it was significant enough that I knew something was wrong.”

The Yankees and the Blue Jays play the second game of a three-game series on Saturday afternoon with a pair of former All-Stars on the mound. New York will send Michael Pineda (NR) to the hill for his first start since 2011, while knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (0-1) will get the ball for Toronto. First pitch from Rogers Centre is slated for 1:07 PM.

Dan is’s beat writer for the New York Yankees and the Trenton Thunder. Follow him on Twitter at @danpfeiffer74 for all the latest New York Yankees news.

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