NEW YORK -- Supported by home runs from Starlin Castro and Austin Romine, Masahiro Tanaka settled down to pitch into the seventh inning as the Yankees secured their fifth straight win on Friday, a 4-3 Interleague victory over the Cardinals at Yankee Stadium.
With St. Louis paying its first visit to the Bronx since 2003, Tanaka bounced back from a rough start to the young season to pick up his first win, limiting the Cardinals to Matt Carpenter's two-run homer and Randal Grichuk's RBI double over 6 1/3 innings. Tanaka retired 10 straight through one stretch, striking out five and walking two.
"I thought it was a rough start, giving up two runs early in the game, but the team came right back," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I think that was a good mental boost. I think I got into a better tempo after that."
Castro answered Carpenter's first-inning blast with a two-run shot of his own, and Romine homered in the second off Cardinals starter Michael Wacha, who allowed four runs (three earned) on nine hits over six innings. Wacha walked two and struck out eight as he saw a personal six-game winning streak snapped.
"Definitely wasn't establishing the fastball down in the zone there early on," Wacha said. "You can't do that. It's where the hitters want to see it. They want to see it up, and that's where the mistakes happen."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Stop, stop, go: In the fifth, Jacoby Ellsbury raced home for the Yankees' fourth run after initially being held at third base by coach Joe Espada on a Chase Headley double to right field. Ellsbury did not hesitate when second baseman Kolten Wong's relay throw home skipped past catcher Yadier Molina, scoring what proved to be the deciding run.
"Awesome. Those are the types of things that win games," Headley said. "That ended up being the deciding run. A really good play for him to be able to score right there."
An error was charged to Wong on the play.
"It didn't kick back to [right fielder Stephen] Piscotty. It died," Wong said. "So he had to go and get it, and that's a couple more steps he's got to take. When he throws it in, I have to catch it off the hop. I turn and throw, expecting that guy to be rounding third and coming home. I'm trying to make sure he doesn't score. It wasn't the best throw, and it just got away." More >
Rally clipper: St. Louis trimmed the deficit to 4-3 in the seventh as Grichuk ripped Tanaka's 103rd pitch for an RBI double to left. That placed runners at second and third with one out as the Yanks called upon right-hander Tyler Clippard. Wong flew out to Ellsbury in center and Dexter Fowler launched a 92-mph fastball deep to right, but Aaron Judge settled underneath the drive just in front of the wall.
"I thought he got that ball when it came off the bat, especially to that part of the field, you see it carry pretty good sometimes," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That would have been a big shot for us, and for him."
Stop sign: The Cardinals came up 90 feet short in their ninth-inning push against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, who entered with a streak of 29 consecutive scoreless appearances against St. Louis. But the Cardinals did threaten against him Friday. After a two-out walk by Grichuk, Jose Martinez capped a five-pitch at-bat with a double to left. Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner was quick to get the ball into the infield, and that forced Cards third-base coach Chris Maloney to hold the potential tying run at third.
"I didn't think he had a chance," Maloney said. "Even if the throw had been off a few feet either way, he still has time to get him. I wanted to take the chance, but I couldn't."
"I felt pretty good about Gardy in the corner," added Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "It's a little harder to get a jump off a left-hander, which helps as well. When I saw the ball hit, unless it took a funny hop or we messed up a relay, I thought we'd be able to get it in. "
Chapman then induced a groundout from Fowler to seal his third save of the season and extend his string of success against the Cardinals. More >
"We're just going through a little rut right now. We're just trying to figure out a way to turn it around. Once we do, we know how good of a team we can be." -- Wong, on the Cardinals' 3-7 start to the season
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Cardinals used their challenge in the top of the seventh when they asked for a second look at a force play. It took only 44 seconds for the umpires to confirm that Castro had his foot on the base when he received a throw from shortstop Ronald Torreyes, as Matt Adams was ruled out.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals:Carlos Martinez, who has a 1.41 ERA over 44 2/3 Interleague innings, will make his first career start against the Yankees on Saturday at 12:05 p.m. CT. Martinez began the season with 8 1/3 scoreless innings against the Cubs, but then allowed six runs (five earned) to the Reds last weekend.
Yankees: Left-hander CC Sabathia (1-0, 1.64 ERA) will make his third start of the season on Saturday as the Yankees host the Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. ET. One of the Yanks' more effective starters so far this year, Sabathia has not faced St. Louis since 2008, when he tossed a three-hit shutout as a member of the Brewers.