Tanaka strong as Yankees top Braves

Righty strikes out six, allows only one run in 4 1/3 innings in Yanks' win
03/16/2014 4:32 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Ichiro had two hits and drove in a run in the Yankees' 7-4 win over the Braves on Sunday.(AP)
TAMPA, Fla. - Masahiro Tanaka struck out six in 4 1/3 innings, and the Yankees backed him up by plating six runs in the fifth en route to a 7-4 victory over the Braves at Steinbrenner Field.

The Braves brought most of their "A" squad to Tampa, but Tanaka was up to the challenge. He threw just 44 of his 74 pitches for strikes but allowed just one run on three hits, walking two against those six Ks and departing to a big ovation after fanning Tyler Greene to open the fifth.

Tanaka worked out of a jam in the third, fanning B.J. Upton and Ernesto Mejia back-to-back after putting two on with one out, and his only allowed run came when Dan Uggla and Tommy La Stella hit back-to-back two-out doubles in the fourth.

Matt Thornton relieved and surrendered an RBI single to B.J. Upton that made it 2-1 halfway through, but the Yankees had more than an answer in the bottom of the frame. They sent 10 men to the plate, scoring six runs on just three hits, helped by two walks, a pair of wild pitches, and two Braves errors, both of which contributed to the final run.

In that sequence, with runners on second and third and one out, Mason Williams hit a sac fly that scored Ramon Flores to make it 6-2, and Peter O'Brien was able to tag and move to third on a throwing error on Justin Upton. The next batter, Ali Castillo, then hit a smash to short that shortstop Andrelton Simmons couldn't handle, allowing O'Brien to score and the Yankees to officially bat around.

The Yankees had another golden opportunity to add on in the seventh after three straight singles loaded the bases, but reliever John Cornely came and pulled a Houdini; he got Brandon Thomas to pop out in foul territory, and then watched as backup shortstop Elmer Reyes made a great defensive play to start a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play.

Justin Upton blasted a deep solo shot to left with two outs in the eighth to cut the lead to 7-3 and loaded the bases with one out in the ninth off Dellin Betances, but Betances allowed only an RBI groundout before striking out Joey Terdoslavich to end the game.

Offensively, the Yankees finished with 12 hits, with Ichiro, Flores, and Eduardo Nunez all going 2-for-3.

Behind Tanaka and Thornton, the Yankees bullpen was solid as well; Shawn Kelley struck out two in a perfect sixth, Shane Greene allowed Justin Upton's homer but also struck out four in two innings, and Betances escaped that jam in the ninth, finishing with ones wild: 1 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K, and 1 HBP.

The win, pending the result of the Legend Series game in Panama that the "other" Yankees were leading 5-0 as this one ended, makes them 9-9-2 in the Grapefruit League and 10-9-2 overall on the spring.

The full team will be reunited Monday, but many will have the day off when the Yankees travel to Bradenton to take on the Pirates; Hiroki Kuroda will be on the mound for the 1 p.m. start, with Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, and Brian Roberts among the biggest names on the trip.

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