By: BEN WALKER
AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) Masahiro Tanaka throws a splitter that drops out of sight, ranks among the major league leaders in many prized pitching categories and appears, so far, to be worth every penny the New York Yankees paid to sign him.
His place in those pinstripes? Tanaka seems to have a different take than most everyone else.
“No, I don’t feel that I’m the ace,” he said Saturday through a translator.
Tanaka shut down Joe Mauer and the other Minnesota hitters while lowering his AL-best ERA to 2.06, and Brian McCann lined a go-ahead double in the eighth inning Saturday that sent the New York Yankees over the Twins 3-1.
Tanaka (8-1) permitted only an unearned run in eight innings. The heralded rookie from Japan gave up four singles, just two leaving the infield.
Tanaka struck out nine, giving him 88 in 78 2-3 innings. The 25-year-old righty is fanning more batters in the big leagues than he did back home before getting a $155 million, seven-year contract from the Yankees.
“It’s probably the guys here haven’t seen me,” he said.
Tanaka walked two and bounced two wild pitches. But he was especially sharp against Mauer, the three-time AL batting champion.
Mauer, who faced Tanaka in spring training, struck out on three pitches in the first inning with a runner on third. Mauer fanned on four pitches with runners on second and third in the third, then tapped into a double play and later grounded out.
“Guys said the ball was just disappearing,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “His splitter is unbelievable, he’s got all the pitches.”
“And we also saw that he’s very competitive. A few times you could see him yelling at himself, he’s very competitive,” he said.
Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira left in the sixth because of soreness in his surgically repaired right wrist, the same problem that forced him to miss three games this week.
Manager Joe Girardi said Teixeira was expected to miss two more games.
“Our feeling, right now, is that it’s going to be short term,” Girardi said.
It was 1-all when Jacoby Ellsbury singled with one out in the Yankees eighth off Brian Duensing (1-2). Ellsbury stole second, and continued to third when catcher Josmil Pinto’s throw from his knees went into center field for an error.
In light showers, Brian Roberts walked and McCann hit an RBI double over leaping first baseman Chris Parmelee into the right-field corner. Following a 34-minute rain delay, Kelly Johnson drove in a run with an infield single.
David Robertson pitched the ninth for his 12th save. Minnesota has lost seven of nine.
Yangervis Solarte homered for the Yankees’ first run.
Tanaka and Twins starter Kevin Correia both escaped early trouble, and nobody pitched a perfect 1-2-3 inning until the seventh.
Brian Dozier grounded the first pitch of the game off Johnson’s glove at third base for an error, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Josh Willingham’s two-out single.
Correia got out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the first when he struck out Teixeira and got McCann to bounce into a double play.
Solarte homered in the fourth, giving the rookie infielder a team-leading 26 RBIs.
Solarte singled with two outs and the slow-footed McCann on second in the sixth. McCann was held at third as strong-armed right fielder Oswaldo Arcia fielded the ball and threw home, and Solarte was thrown out trying to take second.
Arcia had two assists in Friday night’s 6-1 win.
NOTES: Twins rookie CF Danny Santana was out of the lineup, a day after he needed seven stitches to close a cut on his left eyelid. He was hurt when his batting helmet flew off during a headfirst slide and bounced up to hit him in the face. “We have to be guarded here,” Gardenhire said. … Gardenhire won a replay challenge in the third, and Eduardo Escobar wound up with an infield hit. … Former Yankees All-Star Phil Hughes (5-1, 3.23) faces his former team Sunday. Rookie Chase Whitley (0-0, 2.57) starts for New York. … Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and Derick Brassard of the New York Rangers were in the crowd, and got big cheers when shown on the videoboard. The Rangers are in the Stanley Cup final. … The Twins were trying for their fourth straight win at Yankee Stadium, having won their final two games at the park last year and again Friday. The last time Minnesota won four in a row in the Bronx was 1968.
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