Tanaka was removed with one out in the seventh having given up one run on three hits with two walks and six strikeouts. He was taken out after a double and walk. The Yankees then took the lead in the eighth.
"When he's hitting the mitt, he's really hard to hit. He had everything going," catcher Brian McCann said after the game, per MLB.com. "He had the cutter going, the sinker in, he had the split, obviously -- I feel like it's always there. He got a lot of early count outs, which I think is a big deal for him to pitch deep into ballgames."
Tanaka's numbers, however, continue to shine. He owns a 3.22 ERA, but has allowed just one run in his last 14 1/3 innings with 14 strikeouts. Tanaka will shoot again for his third victory Tuesday against Tampa Bay.
"I don't worry so much about his elbow as I worry about his grip on the baseball when it's this cold," Girardi said. "I think it can be very slippery on days like today, and I think around game time it's going to be 43 (degrees), so we'll just have to see how it goes. ... You just try to keep your hands warm and rub up the baseball as much as you can to try to get some heat in the ball. That's the best idea I have."
Tanaka, who is coming off a partially torn ligament in his elbow last season, has allowed nine runs -- seven earned -- on 11 hits and five walks while striking out 18 innings over three starts (16 innings). He holds a 3.94 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP over that span.
After mulling when to start pitcher
Thursday's game will Tanaka's first game starting on four days rest this season. He threw only 85 pitches during his last outing, which Girardi said allowed them to start him on short rest.
"He's going to have to pitch on his normal rest eventually," Girardi said, "so we just felt that because of the amount of pitches that he threw and how he looked, it's probably a good thing to do."
The possibility of rain on Monday is causing the uncertainty. Girardi said that Tanaka could start Thursday or Friday, depending on whether Monday's game is played as scheduled, per MLB.com.
Tanaka retired 15 straight batters at one point. It was the best performance so far this season for a Yankees starter.
"I'm just trying to go out there and basically try to do the best, like I always do," Tanaka said through an interpreter to MLB.com. "You make those adjustments between starts, and I think I was able to adjust well and get good results today."
Tanaka threw just 85 pitches, 58 for strikes, in the win.
"I thought he had all his pitches tonight, which was the big difference," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He located his fastball, he elevated it as well, he used his curveball, his slider and his split really effectively, and that's the difference. When you have all your weapons, you usually are going to go deeper into the game."
Tanaka's next start is scheduled for Thursday in Detroit.
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