Tanaka strong for Yankees in win over Twins

Bullpen sharp in relief to help down Minnesota
03/22/2014 4:09 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Masahiro Tanaka was solid over 5 2/3 innings on Saturday.(AP)
Masahiro Tanaka pitched 5 2/3 strong innings in his second-to-last spring start, and a four-run fourth inning propelled the Yankees to a 5-4 win over the Twins in Fort Myers, Fla., on Saturday.

While countryman Hiroki Kuroda was back in Tampa pitching in a minor-league game, Tanaka took the long road trip to Fort Myers and allowed three runs on five hits while striking out six; meanwhile, the Yankees bullpen behind him was superb, and the offense gave Tanaka all he needed in a four-run fourth.

The Twins had gotten on the board early off Tanaka, as Brian Dozier led off the first inning with a double and scored on a pair of groundouts, and nearly tacked more on in the third before Tanaka escaped a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the third by getting Josh Willingham to fly out and end the inning.

In the fourth, though, the Yankees busted the game open off Minnesota starter Kevin Correia, with five straight batters reaching after Brett Gardner flew out to open the inning. Correia's wild pitch with the bases loaded plated the first run, and a few pitches later, Scott Sizemore smacked a two-run single to right to make it 3-1. Dean Anna followed with a single, and two batters later, Zelous Wheeler doubled to left to score Sizemore and push the lead to 4-1.

The Twins would get two back in the sixth, with Jason Kubel's RBI double making it 4-2 and a Trevor Plouffe RBI groundout - which also happened to be Tanaka's final out - pushed it to 4-3. Tanaka left with a runner on third and two outs, but Fred Lewis came in to retire Oswaldo Arcia and keep the lead.

Catcher Roybell Herrera, who spent last year in the rookie-level GCL, added the final Yankees run with an RBI single in the seventh, and the bullpen made it hold up, with David Herndon and Shane Greene each pitching perfect innings behind Tanaka and Lewis.

Yoshinori Tateyama allowed a one-out solo homer to Eduardo Escobar in the ninth to make it 5-4, but Tateyama rebounded to strike out the side and record the save.

Offensively, the Yankees got those five runs on 10 hits, with Zoilo Almonte and Wheeler recording two hits apiece. Eduardo Nunez and Kelly Johnson were both 1-for-4, while Francisco Cervelli was 0-for-2 and designated hitter Brett Gardner was hitless in three plate appearances.

With the win, the Yankees improve to 15-9-2 in the Grapefruit League and 16-9-2 on the spring overall. They will play their final Sunday game of the spring tomorrow, as the Blue Jays visit Steinbrenner Field for a 1:05 p.m. start; Michael Pineda will be on the mound, and coverage begins live on YES at 1 p.m.

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