By Barry Millman
Masahiro Tanaka confounded critics of his decision to forego surgery on his torn UCL with another commanding performance and Jacoby Ellsbury stole two runs using his feet and guile to snatch a series-clinching 2-1 comeback win from the Tigers on Thursday.
Tanaka allowed a run in the first on a sacrifice fly, but it would be the last. He retired 18 of the next 19 batters: scattering three hits, two walks and punching out six over 6.1 innings before handing the game to the bullpen. Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller didn't allow a baserunner.
The Yankees own offensive futility -- 3-for-29; 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position; seven left on base -- kept Tanaka from earning the decision.
Ellsbury scored the tying run in the sixth with two outs. Standing on third base, he watched Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez go into a full windup and feinted several steps toward home, flustering Sanchez who hesitated and stepped off the rubber before throwing to the plate. A few moments later, third base ump Gerry Davis called the balk and waved Ellsbury in to score.
He scored the eventual winning run by busting it out of the box in the eighth and turned what should've been a long single into a hustle double, putting him in a position for Brett Gardner to bunt him over to third and Brian McCann to drive him in with the go-ahead run.
Coming on the heels of Tanaka's scoreless seven-inning start against the Rays, Tanaka is now sitting pretty with a 3.22 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 24/7 K/BB ration over 22.1 innings.
After two rusty starts to begin the season, amateur doctors disguised as national baseball writers and TV analysts -- and in at least two instances, former Red Sox pitchers -- were giving lectures on the many reasons Tanaka can't possibly ever pitch effectively again without Tommy John surgery.
No such lectures after this game. Hopefully, they've filed them away with their lectures on how ARod can't possibly ever hit effectively again.
You can email Barry Millman at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.