NEW YORK -- In the last month, Masahiro Tanaka has been a sure thing on the mound for the New York Yankees.
Tanaka takes a five-game winning streak to the mound Saturday afternoon when the Yankees continue their playoff pursuit in the third contest of a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium.
Tanaka is 12-4 with a 3.11 ERA. He is fourth in the American League in ERA, sixth with a 1.08 WHP, third in walks per nine innings (1.56) and fourth in strikeouts to walk ratio (4.84).
The right-hander also has allowed two runs or fewer in 19-of-28 starts this season, tied for the most in the American League. He is seventh in innings at 179 1/3 and during his last 39, Tanaka is 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA.
Tanaka's last loss was at the New York Mets on Aug. 2, when the Yankees were 53-53, 7 1/2 games out of first place and 5 1/2 back in the wild card race.
The next day, Gary Sanchez was promoted, Alex Rodriguez played his last game the following week and since Tanaka's last loss, the Yankees (75-65) are 22-12 while two games out of the second wild card spot and four out of first.
"We're trying to get in," Yankees closer Dellin Betances said. "That's our goal."
Tanaka allowed two runs and seven innings in 6 1/3 innings of a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday. Although this year is similar to his rookie season of 2014, Tanaka said he feels more in control even if his high standards are not quite good enough.
"I'm not overly satisfied with the overall way of pitching, how I'm pitching this year," Tanaka said. "... But this year I feel like I'm more in control of myself compared to the first year. In that sense, I feel sort of a sense of maybe satisfaction compared to the first year."
Tanaka will be pitching after Sanchez hit his 12th home run and Mark Teixeira belted a grand slam in Friday's 7-4 victory that was slowed by three rain delays totaling 94 minutes.
The Rays have dropped five of six since getting the first two from Toronto last weekend and clinched a non-winning season at 59-81. They increased their home run total to 190 after Logan Morrison and Steven Souza Jr. hit back-to-back homers off Michael Pineda.
"We're playing at Yankee Stadium, we're playing Toronto, we're playing in Baltimore, we're going to Texas, those games are going to be packed with atmosphere, packed with people," Rays manager Kevin Cash said of the rest of the season.
Tampa Bay received a laborous 2 2/3-inning outing from Blake Snell on Friday and hopes Chris Archer can continue pitching decently and give them some distance.
Archer is 8-17 with a 4.06 ERA. His next loss will tie the team record set by Tanyon Sturtze, who was 4-18 in 2002.
Archer has taken losses despite leading the league with 211 strikeouts.
"You take away the win-loss record, which is obviously not ideal, you look at the other numbers and they're pretty good," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Archer is 4-5 with a 3.03 ERA in his 10 starts since the All-Star break and his ERA is the lowest since it was 3.60 following his first start of the season. Archer last pitched Sunday against Toronto and allowed two runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings with nine strikeouts.
Archer is 5-4 with a 2.52 ERA in 12 career starts against the Yankees. He is 0-4 with a 3.15 ERA in his last six starts against the Yankees and last faced them Aug. 12 in New York, when he allowed Alex Rodriguez's RBI double in his final game and gave up five runs and seven hits in six innings.