NEW YORK (AP) — Masahiro Tanaka made a triumphant return from an elbow injury that sidelined him for 2 1/2 months and a rejuvenated Derek Jeter got yet another big hit on his final homestand, leading the New York Yankees over the Toronto Blue Jays 5-2 Sunday.
With fans in the crowd of 48,144 giving him standing ovations during every at-bat on the gray, overcast afternoon, Jeter went 2 for 4 and finished his next-to-last home series 8 for 15 with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs.
Jeter saluted the crowd after sharing postgame handshakes and high-fives with his teammates.
When the retiring 40-year-old Yankees captain batted in the seventh, most fans held up phones and cameras to take photographs and video. He responded with a run-scoring double down the left-field line against Todd Redmond for a 3-1 lead, and the crowd erupted with near-postseason intensity. The usual “De-rek Je-ter!” chants turned into “Thank You De-rek!” and he stole third base.
Jeter then jogged home when Brian McCann hit his second home run of the game. In between McCann’s drives, Brett Gardner put New York ahead 2-1 in the fifth against Drew Hutchison (10-13) with the Yankees’ 15,000th home run since the franchise started play in New York in 1903.
Jeter broke an 0-for-28 slump Wednesday on the final day of a road trip and seems energized by playing before home fans for the final times in his 20-season big-league career.
While the Yankees began the day 4 1/2 games out for the AL’s second wild card with eight games to play, they drew their second straight sellout as Jeter’s admirers turned out on their last opportunity to see him play at home on a weekend. With New York on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time in consecutive years since 1992 and ’93, attention has started to turn to 2015 and the role Tanaka can play.
After the Yankees agreed to pay $20 million for his rights last winter and gave him a $155 million, seven-year contract, Tanaka started sensationally at 11-1 with a 1.99 ERA in his first 14 appearances. But he slumped in his next four and hadn’t pitched since July 9 after scans discovered a slight tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his right elbow.
Rather than opt for Tommy John surgery, which would have sidelined him for about a year, Tanaka and the Yankees chose a rehabilitation strengthening protocol.
Tanaka (13-4) responded by allowing one run and five hits in 5 1-3 innings with four strikeouts, no walks and a hit batter. As promised, Yankees manager Joe Girardi removed him after 70 pitches.
Tanaka’s fastball as mostly at around 91 mph, although he did touch 93 mph in the fifth. He averaged about 92 mph earlier this season, according to Fangraphs.com. His splitter was in the mid-to-upper 90s, dipping as sharply as it did in the first half of the season.
He gave up a run in first when Jose Reyes singled to right center, went to third on Jose Bautista’s ground single to right through the shifted infield and came home on Edwin Encarnacion’s double-play grounder. After Munenori Kawasaki had a one-double in the second, he retired 11 of his next 12 batters. Tanaka went to a three-ball count just once.
He left with two on and one out, and tipped his cap to fans as he walked to the dugout.
David Robertson pitched a hitless ninth for his 38th save in 42 chances.
Hutchison gave up two runs and five hits in four-plus innings. Toronto starting pitchers had gone six innings or more in a team-record 26 consecutive games, seven more than the previous mark in 1998 and the longest in the major leagues since the 2003 Seattle Mariners strung together 27.
Blue Jays: 1B Adam Lind missed his second straight game because of back pain.
Yankees: OF Carlos Beltran, limited to 109 games overall and just 32 in the field this year, now plans to wait until after the season to have surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow. … 1B Mark Teixeira planned to be examined by a hand specialist after Sunday’s game. He was removed from Saturday’s game because of soreness in his right wrist, which needed surgery on July 2 last year.
RHP Michael Pineda (3-5) starts against the Baltimore Orioles’ Wei-Yin Chen (16-4) in the opener of the Yankees’ last home series this season. LHP J.A. Happ (9-11) starts Toronto’s homestand opener against Seattle’s James Paxton (6-3).
RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer