TORONTO -- The Yankees' pitching staff has frequently taken a backseat to the vaunted lineup, but through the team's first 18 innings, its hurlers have contributed a pair of gems to blend with that offensive thump.
Masahiro Tanaka continued his career-long dominance of the Blue Jays by allowing one run over six strong innings, striking out eight and retiring the final 13 men he faced in the Yankees' 4-1 victory on Friday evening at Rogers Centre.
"You always want to start out on a good note," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I feel a little bit relieved right now. It just goes back to Spring Training and how I approached it. I went into all of the games with a theme. I felt like I stuck to it, and I felt like I did a pretty good job at it."
Tanaka permitted only three hits, including Randal Grichuk's homer in the second inning, his first for the club. Done after 79 pitches, Tanaka improved to 10-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 16 career starts against the Blue Jays.
"To get through six innings fairly pitch-efficient, I thought was really impressive," manager Aaron Boone said. "I don't think he necessarily had his best split tonight or even his best stuff, for that matter, but ... I thought it was really a quality effort by a mature, really good pitcher."
Coupled with Luis Severino's stellar Opening Day effort, Yankees starters have limited Toronto to one run on four hits over 11 1/3 innings, with 15 strikeouts.
Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton were held hitless on Friday night, but the bottom of the order picked up the slack against Aaron Sanchez, who allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings. Brandon Drury went 2-for-2 with a walk and two RBIs, Tyler Wade contributed a two-run double, and Didi Gregorius added a triple and a double.
"It's a special lineup, for sure," Drury said. "One through nine is dangerous, the whole way through. We're excited about it and looking to keep it rolling."
A pair of two-out doubles off Albertin Chapman brought the potential tying run to the plate in the ninth, but Grichuk struck out looking, and the Yankees opened a season 2-0 for the first time since 2011.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Started from the bottom: With runners on the corners in the second inning, Drury cracked a 95.1-mph Sanchez heater off the wall in right field for an RBI double, narrowly missing a three-run homer. The two-out knock immediately followed Billy McKinney's first Major League hit, a ground-ball single to right field.
"I didn't know it was going to go off the wall," Drury said. "I knew I barreled it and hit it pretty good. I didn't know it was going to be that close to a homer, but I'll take it every time."
The two-out rally: Wade's first two at-bats against Sanchez -- a strikeout and a groundout to first base -- did not inspire confidence, but he was ready for a big bases-loaded chance in the sixth. Pouncing on a 1-0 fastball, Wade roped a double to center field, sending home Gregorius and Neil Walker, giving the Yanks a three-run lead.
"Neil and Brandon put together really good at-bats, and I was just trying to feed off that. I got a good pitch to hit," Wade said. "It's a big hit. It's Game 2, but for me, each and every game is a big game. I was just fired up."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Yankees improved to 5-1 all time in the month of March. With another victory, they would secure their first series win in Toronto since Aug. 14-16, 2015, having gone 0-6-1 in their previous seven series at Rogers Centre
Carsten Sabathia takes the ball for the third game of the season on Saturday at 4:07 p.m. ET, coming off a renaissance campaign. He is 8-4 with a 3.11 ERA in 14 career starts at Rogers Centre.
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