NEW YORK -- As the Yankees continue to evaluate their choices to take the ball in a win-or-winter American League Wild Card Game, five early runs were deposited into Masahiro Tanaka's back pocket on Friday evening, creating a near-lock for victory. It also strengthened a case that will be difficult
NEW YORK -- As the Yankees continue to evaluate their choices to take the ball in a win-or-winter American League Wild Card Game, five early runs were deposited into Masahiro Tanaka's back pocket on Friday evening, creating a near-lock for victory. It also strengthened a case that will be difficult for the decision-makers to ignore.
The crooked first-inning numbers were welcome as Tanaka received more support than necessary, blanking the Blue Jays over six innings in the Yankees' 11-0 rout at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka has won each of his last three efforts while firing 20 consecutive scoreless innings, giving the Bombers what they'd need with everything on the line.
"I think any one of us could pitch in that game," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "For me, the important thing right now is to focus on this game and the next game."
The Yankees' lead over the Athletics for the first AL Wild Card remained at 1 1/2 games with the victory, opening the club's final regular-season homestand with some thunder. Andrew McCutchen homered as part of a 3-for-3 performance and Didi Gregorius also hit a late homer.
Even Aaron Judge got into the mix, coming off the disabled list and playing two innings in right field. The slugger received a standing ovation from the crowd of 40,138 as he jogged out for his first game action since sustaining a fractured right wrist on July 26.
"Pretty crazy. We've got the best fans in the world," Judge said. "It's great to hear their support. I think they were just cheering for that ballgame, that's what I thought. That performance by Tanaka was amazing."
• Judge salutes fans, throws souvenirs in RF return
Coming off a difficult three-city swing that included two losses to the non-contending Twins, the Yankees wasted no time jumping on Toronto right-hander Marco Estrada in the first. Luke Voit slugged a two-run double, capping the damage in an inning that also credited RBIs to Aaron Hicks, Gregorius and Gleyber Torres.
Continuing to keep the ball on the ground regularly, Tanaka permitted six hits, walking two and striking out eight. Tanaka permitted 18 homers in his first 83 1/3 innings this year but has served up only five homers in his last 64 2/3 frames through Friday. He owns a 2.09 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break.
"It just comes down to the quality of the pitches, having good movement on most of my pitches," Tanaka said. "I think it's helping me get some more ground balls."
Boone has not tipped his hand for a favorite between the likely candidates of Tanaka, Luis Severino and J.A. Happ to make that start, saying that every start from here on will be baked into the pie when the decision is ultimately made.
"These things matter. What they've done has mattered," Boone said. "How they're pitching in the final two weeks certainly matters. We also take into account who we're playing, where we're playing, all those things. You hope to have a number of people to pick from that are pitching well down the stretch."
Estrada lost for the first time in eight career starts at Yankee Stadium, charged with eight runs in 2 2/3 innings. Brett Gardner knocked home Gregorius with a single that chased the hurler, and after a walk, Giancarlo Stanton ripped a two-run single. Stanton entered the game in a 7-for-61 (.115) slide over his last 16 games.
Luis Cessa worked the final three innings without incident for his second career save, polishing off the Yankees' largest shutout victory since a 15-0 win over the Mets on June 14, 2009.
• Chapman expects to pitch before season ends
Tanaka has recorded 12 victories in each of his first five Major League seasons. Since 1950, only four other pitchers have accomplished that feat: Dennis Eckersley (1975-79), Dwight Gooden (1984-88), Andy Pettitte (1995-99) and Tom Seaver (1967-71).
Carsten Sabathia (7-6, 3.54 ERA) will seek to snap a four-start winless streak on Saturday as the Yankees host the Blue Jays at 4:05 p.m. ET. Sabathia took a no-decision in New York's 3-2 loss to the Mariners in Seattle on Sunday, allowing two runs and seven hits in five innings. The veteran lefty's last win came on Aug. 12 against the Rangers. Right-hander Sean Reid-Foley (1-3, 6.86 ERA) will make his fifth big league start for Toronto.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.