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Yankees clinch 27th straight season above .500

@BryanHoch
August 17, 2019

NEW YORK -- The thirst for perfection that alternately drives and torments Masahiro Tanaka was on display at the dugout railing in the seventh inning on Friday, the hurler repeatedly rapping the knuckles of his pitching hand into the back of his cap. This, mind you, came after a solid

NEW YORK -- The thirst for perfection that alternately drives and torments Masahiro Tanaka was on display at the dugout railing in the seventh inning on Friday, the hurler repeatedly rapping the knuckles of his pitching hand into the back of his cap. This, mind you, came after a solid performance.

Tanaka endured those anxious moments as he watched Tommy Kahnle record two big strikeouts, preserving his second consecutive strong effort. Utilizing his fastball, slider and splitter in concert, Tanaka led the Yankees back from a lopsided defeat in the series opener for a 3-2 victory over the Indians.

Box score

"I think it kind of just came naturally," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "Definitely, I was really pumped up. We lost the game yesterday in the way that we did, so we definitely wanted to come back strong and get the 'W' tonight. I'm really glad that Kahnle was able to shut that down there."

Kahnle fanned both Jason Kipnis and Franmil Reyes to pin the potential tying run at second base, freezing Tanaka's line after the right-hander held Cleveland to solo homers off the bats of Jose Ramirez and Yasiel Puig.

"I thought he threw the ball really well," manager Aaron Boone said of Tanaka, who improved to 2-0 with a 3.42 ERA in his last four starts. "Another sharp, big outing for him."

Securing their 27th consecutive season with a winning record, a streak that dates to 1993 and is second in Major League history only to their 39-season run from 1926-64, the Yankees peppered rookie starter Aaron Civale for three runs and eight hits over six innings.

Gary Sánchez and Gleyber Torres gave New York a quick lead with first-inning RBI singles and Puig misplayed Gio Urshela's fifth-inning hit, charged with an error as Aaron Judge raced home with the eventual deciding run.

"With how many runs they put on us last night, we had to come out here early and make a statement," Judge said. "It started in the first inning with Masa, and then early we were able to get the two runs on them and just kind of rolled from there. Masa set the tone for us tonight; we just kind of fed off him."

Gift of grab
The Yankees loaded the bases with none out in the seventh but were turned aside by the well-traveled duo of Oliver Perez and Tyler Clippard, who leaned upon Puig's strong throwing arm from right field to twice pin DJ LeMahieu at third base.

Brett Gardner returned the favor in the top of the eighth, running down Francisco Lindor's drive to right-center field. Lindor's drive off Zack Britton rocketed off the bat at 100.2 mph and carried an expected batting average of .600, according to Statcast.

Judge said Gardner's catch "won us the game," and Boone said his initial thought was, "Oh no." But then Gardner seemed to have a beat on the ball, flagging it in front of the plexiglass windows separating the playing field from the Yankees' bullpen.

"It was a big play," Gardner said. "If I don't get to it, there's no telling how the rest of the game unfolds."

Here comes the Judge
Mired in a slump that had seen him bat .148 (12-for-81) with a homer and four RBIs in his previous 21 games entering Friday, Judge showed positive signs of a breakout.

His first-inning single to left field snapped a string of 11 hitless at-bats, and Judge lined out hard in the third inning before stroking a fifth-inning double. Judge also worked a walk in the seventh.

"Any game you get a hit your first at-bat, it's usually a pretty good thing," Judge said. "It's tough to get two. I was just happy I could contribute tonight and get things rolling and we got the win."

Closing time
There were audible groans as Aroldis Chapman issued a five-pitch walk to Santana that opened the ninth inning, but the closer recovered to retire Puig on a popout before striking out Ramirez and Kipnis to seal his 34th save in 39 opportunities.

Boone said Chapman's fastball and slider both have been on point in his past four appearances, and Chapman said he relished the challenge of facing the heart of Cleveland's lineup.

"Warming up in the bullpen, I knew I was going to face those guys," Chapman said through an interpreter. "The success of the task at hand and the mentality doesn't change. I wanted to be aggressive, I wanted to get ahead in the count and I was able to do that tonight."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.