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Yankees' offense finally breaks loose in rout of Red Sox

Mark Teixeira and Chase Headley of the New

Mark Teixeira and Chase Headley of the New York Yankees congratulate teammate Brian McCann after scoring a run in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, April 12, 2015. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Creeping fears had been nagging at the Yankees and their fans for five games, with the litany of lingering questions so long that it even managed to cast a pall on opening week optimism.

So consider Sunday night's 14-4 win over the Red Sox a welcome respite in a cringe-inducing stretch. In a game that Joe Girardi called "really important'' the Yankees really responded -- breaking out for a seven-run first inning and hitting three home runs to avert the three-game sweep.

But let's get back to those questions. Namely, is Masahiro Tanaka really OK? Will this offense ever produce? And the biggie: Can this team find ways to win consistently?

Well, for one night only, it all seemed in the realm of possibility.

Tanaka looked slightly better than he did on Opening Day, allowing four hits and four runs, three earned, in five innings. Perhaps more encouraging, the Yankees erupted immediately against Clay Buchholz, who lasted only 31/3 innings, giving up nine hits and 10 runs, nine earned.

Tanaka needed only nine pitches to retire the side in the first, when his fastball hit 91 mph three times and his first pitch to David Ortiz, a ball, clocked in at 92. He didn't allow a hit until Mookie Betts' two-out single to right in the third.

His real test came in a messy fourth. Two walks, two wild pitches, two hits and a throwing error by Stephen Drew allowed the Red Sox to score three runs. Tanaka, though, was able to limit the damage. With one out and runners on second and third, he struck out Ryan Hanigan and Betts -- both swinging at 85-mph sliders.

It was something of a bounce-back for the righty, who looked very shaky Monday in four innings of a loss to the Blue Jays. That game had some, including Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, questioning whether Tanaka could really avoid Tommy John surgery on his partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. He's been trying to fully rehab the elbow since last year, and has spoken about relying more on off-speed pitches to avoid aggravating the injury.

What's more, this was the Yankees final game before a 10-game trip, and that carried plenty of heft in Girardi's eyes.

"You don't want to start the season 1-5, 1-5 on your home field where your club is supposed to be built around, 1-5 in your division, you don't want those things,'' Girardi said. "It's really important. I don't know if after 162 games you'll look back and say this is the most important game of the year, but I think it's important.''

It helped that the Yankees' offense, which scored only one run in Tanaka's previous start, was far, far more generous this time around.

With runners on first and second and one out, Brian McCann hit a grounder to first baseman Mike Napoli, who gloved the ball on the backhand but lost it on the transfer to load the bases on the error. Alex Rodriguez's bases-clearing double gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead before Chase Headley and Drew hit back-to-back home runs to make it 7-0.

In the fourth, Brett Gardner hit a two-run single and Mark Teixeira had a sacrifice fly for a 10-4 lead. The Yankees added three in the sixth to go up 13-4.

A few questions answered. For a little while, at least.


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