NEW YORK — Jose Reyes walked to the plate with a specific plan on how to handle Masahiro Tanaka.
“I made up my mind before the game that I was going to swing at the first pitch,” Reyes said. “You don’t want to face Tanaka with two strikes.”
Reyes gave the Toronto Blue Jays a fast start, lining that first delivery over the right-field wall for a home run Tuesday night. Yet that was all the AL East leaders managed against the New York Yankees in a 3-1 loss, their seventh defeat in 10 games.
“We went out into the field and we’re like, ‘1-0 on Tanaka, here we go,”‘ Reyes said. “But then he just shut us down. Even when we started getting his pitch count up, we figured we’re going to get to him later on. But then he just went right at it and the next thing you know, it’s the seventh inning. When he needs to make a pitch, he makes it.”
Tanaka earned his major league-high 11th victory as the Yankees recorded their 14th straight home win over the Blue Jays. Brett Gardner hit a two-run homer off the right-field foul pole to give New York an early lead it held.
Tanaka (11-1) struck out 10 in six innings and left with an AL-best 1.99 ERA. The Japanese rookie has made 14 starts this season — he’s gone at least six innings in every outing and never permitted more than three earned runs.
Tanaka made his big league debut April 4 at Toronto and Melky Cabrera tagged him for a leadoff home run on the third pitch.
Reyes provided an even earlier jolt this time with a drive into the lower deck in right, and slapped his hands as he rounded first.
Cabrera followed with a liner between Tanaka’s legs that knocked off the pitcher’s glove. But Tanaka scrambled to retrieve the ball behind the mound and threw out Cabrera, and never again allowed a runner past second.
“He can throw any pitch at any time. He threw that splitter a lot tonight, even on hitter’s counts,” Reyes said. “We’ll just have to go out and get ’em tomorrow. No Tanaka tomorrow.”
Tanaka moved ahead of Toronto’s Mark Buehrle for the most wins in the majors. Buehrle starts Wednesday night in the middle game of the three-game series.
Dellin Betances threw two innings and David Robertson closed for his 17th save in 19 tries. The Yankees’ pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts and became the latest to slow down the Blue Jays, limited to 24 runs in their last 11 games.
Playing about 50 miles from his Long Island hometown, Blue Jays rookie Marcus Stroman (3-2) threw 98 pitches in 3 2-3 innings on a sticky night. Gardner gave him a workout right away, grounding out in a 12-pitch at-bat to lead off the first.
The 23-year-old Stroman estimated that about 125 family members and friends would be in attendance. His father, mother, grandmother, sister and three uncles were among those on hand.
“Oh, man, pitching to legends like Derek Jeter. I know he’s excited,” his uncle, Fabio Auffant, said after the second inning. “I am.”
Moments later, Jeter singled.
Stroman had his own rooting section in the second deck on the third-base side, and his fans stood and cheered when he was pulled. During the fifth-inning break, when birthday, anniversary and other messages were posted on the Yankee Stadium video board, there was one from Stroman’s friends congratulating his parents.
“It was a great experience to pitch here. There was a special feeling tonight, knowing all of the people that were here supporting me,” Stroman said.
Kelly Johnson doubled in the third for the Yankees’ first hit and Gardner pulled a go-ahead home run.
“That Gardner at-bat started it off. He fouled off a bunch of pitches and my pitch count took off from there,” Stroman said.
NOTES: After the game, Toronto reinstated OF Colby Rasmus (hamstring) from the disabled list and optioned OF Anthony Gose (.233) to Triple-A Buffalo. Gose looked at strike three to end the game with a runner on third. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’m just going to have to accept the assignment and make the most of my time down there so I can be ready to come back when they call me,” Gose said. … The Blue Jays’ drought at Yankee Stadium started in August 2012, and they’ve dropped 23 of their last 25 in the Bronx. … Cabrera has a 17-game hitting streak vs. the Yankees, his former team. … Toronto RHP R.A. Dickey is fine to make his next start Friday night in Cincinnati, manager John Gibbons said. The knuckleballer made an early exit Saturday in Baltimore because of groin tightness.