TORONTO — The back end of the Yankees bullpen again did its job, already a trend early this season.
But another April trend continued in a 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays in front of 28,819 at Rogers Centre:
A starter failing to provide significant distance.
Masahiro Tanaka, who made it through 5 2/3 innings in his season-opening start April 5 against the Astros, lasted only five innings against the Blue Jays.
Fortunately for the Yankees (4-2), the righthander, even as his pitch count ballooned thanks to a 29-pitch first inning, wasn’t bad, allowing two runs, three hits and four walks.
But looking at the bigger picture, if Joe Girardi has to continue dipping into his bullpen in the sixth inning, the unit will be spent before the All-Star break.
There was also some initial concern for Brian McCann, who took a foul ball off his left big toe in the fifth inning and stayed in the game before being replaced in the ninth by Austin Romine. McCann underwent a “fluoroscope” test which came back negative. No further tests were scheduled.
After Johnny Barbato (1-0) pitched a scoreless sixth, Jacoby Ellsbury’s RBI single off Brett Cecil in the seventh gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead. Brian McCann’s second homer of the season, a shot off Aaron Sanchez, had tied the score in the sixth.
Chasen Shreve pitched two-thirds of an inning and walked Josh Donaldson, giving way to Dellin Betances. Donaldson stole second but Betances struck out Jose Bautista looking at a knee-buckling curveball to end the inning.
Betances struck out two in a perfect eighth, and Andrew Miller pitched a perfect ninth for his second save.
Tanaka originally was scheduled to face the Tigers Sunday in Detroit but a rainout pushed his start to Tuesday night.
“You worry about the sharpness of their pitches,” Girardi said of the long layoff before the game.
Tanaka’s splitter was sharp Tuesday- helping him strike out six — but little else was and he did well to keep the powerful Blue Jays (3-5) at bay.
Tanaka quickly retired the first two hitters he faced, but walked Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the latter after getting ahead 0-and-2. Tanaka went to a full count against Troy Tulowitzki, eventually striking out the shortstop on a splitter.
The Yankees took the lead in the second. McCann drew a leadoff walk and, after Carlos Beltran grounded back to the pitcher, Sanchez walked Chase Headley, who came in 1-for-12 but went 2-for-3. Both runners advanced when Sanchez threw wildly to second trying to pick off McCann. Starlin Castro’s groundout to second brought in McCann for a 1-0 lead.
Toronto took the lead in the third. Tanaka hit Kevin Pillar with a 0-and-2 slider, then saw Donaldson jump on a flat 91-mph fastball and drive it into the gap in right-center, putting runners at the corners.
Bautista then launched a 1-and-0 slider into the gap in right-center, a ball Ellsbury got a bad read on. It landed near the wall for a two-run double.
Sanchez settled down after the walk to Headley, retiring nine of the next 10 batters. Didi Gregorius, with one out in the fifth, collected just the second hit of the night for the Yankees to that point, lining a double to left-center. Sanchez got out of it, striking out Ellsbury and getting Gardner to ground to second.
Sanchez got Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to start the sixth but McCann tore into a full-count, 94-mph fastball and knocked it out for his second homer of the season, tying it at 2.
Cecil, a stalwart for the Blue Jays’ bullpen last season with a 2.48 ERA in 63 appearances, replaced Sanchez in the seventh and gave up a leadoff single to Headley. He walked Castro and, after Gregorius’ sacrifice bunt, Ellsbury dumped a single to left to make it 3-2.