Tanaka shines, Torres and McCutchen homer as Yanks blank M’s

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              New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, left, greets teammates in the dugout after pitching the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, in Seattle. The Yankees won 4-0. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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SEATTLE (AP) — Masahiro Tanaka may be pitching himself into a start at the AL wild-card game.

The Japanese right-hander struck out 10 over eight innings, Gleyber Torres and Andrew McCutchen each hit two-run homers and the New York Yankees beat the Seattle Mariners 4-0 on Friday night.

Tanaka (11-5) allowed three hits and didn’t walk anyone, but he wasn’t all that impressed.

“I felt like I didn’t have my best stuff,” Tanaka said through a translator. “I didn’t have good command of my slider and had to make adjustments throughout the game. But as the game went one I felt I was able to get my focus. It’s just grinding it out.”

Tanaka has allowed two earned runs or fewer in four of his last five starts. Yankees manager Aaron Boone felt Tanaka’s splitfinger fastball was the pitch that made him so effective Friday night.

“The splitfinger right from the get-go was a factor,” Boone said. “And we even saw him reach back when he needed a little extra velocity on his fastball. He was in complete command out there tonight. He was terrific.”

Boone has yet to commit to a starter for the wild-card game if New York ends up there, in part because ace Luis Severino has been off his game of late. With more results like this, Tanaka could be Boone’s guy in the winner-take-all showdown.

The Yankees maintained their 3 1/2-game lead over Oakland for the top AL wild card and stayed 8 1/2 back of AL East-leading Boston. Seattle is 6 1/2 games behind the A’s for the final AL wild card.

Tanaka is 7-0 against the Mariners in his career.

“That’s about as good a pitched game we’ve had against us in quite some time,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “He used all four quadrants of the strike zone with his fastball and he had a really good splitter going. We didn’t get much to square up at all.”

Torres and McCutchen squared up two pitches against starter James Paxton (11-6). Torres hit a two run-homer in the second inning, his 23rd of the season. The home run came after Luke Voit hit a two-out single to left.

Torres, 21, is the youngest Yankee since Mickey Mantle to get 100 hits in a season.

“I feel really good for that,” Torres said. “Hitting in this game is not easy. You have to stay humble and stay focused. I’m trying not to do too much. Now I’m more relaxed at the plate.”

McCutchen added a two-run shot in the third for his first homer as a Yankee. He entered the game with one single in 16 at-bats in his first five games with the Yankees since coming over in the trade with the Giants.

“I made some mistakes there in the second and third inning and they made me pay,” said Paxton, who pitched six innings and struck out eight. “Other than that, I felt pretty good. I hung a curveball in the third inning and the second inning was a cutter that I just didn’t get to the back foot.”

DIDI RETURNS

The Yankees activated shortstop Didi Gregorius from the 10-day disabled list before the game and he entered as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning. He grounded out to second in his only at-bat.

Gregorius bruised his left heal on Aug. 19 and missed 16 games. He is hitting .269 with 22 home runs and 74 RBIs.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: RF Aaron Judge hit balls off a tee before the game, did some throwing in the outfield and fielded balls in early batting practice. Judge broke his right wrist when he was hit by a pitch on July 26.

Mariners: Manager Scott Servais said LHP Marco Gonzales will come off the 10-day DL and start Tuesday’s game against the San Diego Padres. Gonzales, who was placed on the DL on Aug. 27 (neck strain) threw in the bullpen Friday. Servais said the Mariners will use a six-man rotation the rest of the season. … 1B Daniel Vogelbach (hamstring strain) was available to pinch hit Friday but still isn’t ready to play in the field.

UP NEXT

RHP Lance Lynn (8-10, 5.10 ERA) will make his seventh start for the Yankees on Saturday against the Mariners. He never has faced Seattle in his career. Lynn is winless in his last three starts, going 0-2 with an 8.59 ERA. RHP Felix Hernandez (8-13, 5.55 ERA) will make his 28th start of the season Saturday. Hernandez has not won a game since June 30. He has lost four of his last five starts, allowing 19 runs in 28 2/3 innings.