NEW YORK — With the New York closer to missing out on a wild-card berth than winning the AL East, Masahiro Tanaka pitched like the ace the Yankees needed him to be
Tanaka allowed four hits over seven innings Sunday, and the Yankees defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 5-0 Sunday and stop a five-game losing streak.
"Today is a great example of what the formula is," Alex Rodriguez said. "Strong pitching, get the ball to our strong bullpen and hit the ball out of the park."
Dustin Ackley homered and had three RBIs and left fielder Brett Gardner made two excellent catches for the Yankees, who closed back within 3 1/2 games of the AL East-leading Blue Jays with 20 games left.
Toronto had won the first three games of the four-game series, but the Yankees sent R.A. Dickey (10-11) to his first loss since before the All-Star break. The Blue Jays and Yankees play three more times in Toronto from Sept. 21-23.
Tanaka (12-6) struck out seven, walked none and threw 76 of 108 pitches for strikes.
"I had a sense of having some of the better stuff early on in the game," Tanaka said through an interpreter.
He is 3-0 with a 2.54 ERA in his last four starts.
"I just try to be resilient, not give in, and attack," Tanaka said. "My mindset was I'm not going to let these guys sweep us."
On Aug. 15, he beat the Blue Jays with a five-hitter in Toronto.
"He was good again today," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He's been tough on us."
Ackley, starting over rookie Greg Bird because he was 4 for 11 against Dickey coming in, homered for the first time since July 8 for Seattle against Detroit.
"To be able to contribute, that's the most important thing," Ackley said.
New York went ahead in the second on sacrifice flies by Ackley and Didi Gregorius. Ackley, acquired from the Mariners on July 30, hit a two-run homer in the fourth, and Rodriguez added an RBI double in the eighth that chased Dickey.
Rodriguez was honored by the Yankees before the game for his 3,000th hit on June 19, another step of the thawing of the formerly icy relationship between A-Rod and team stemming from his one-year drug suspension and litigation when he tried to avoid discipline.
Rodriguez scored on Didi Gregorius' second-inning sacrifice fly, coming home on a headfirst slide, just under catcher Josh Thole's tag. Rodriguez thrust his hands in the air in celebration.
Rodriguez was honored by the Yankees before the game for his 3,000th hit on June 19, another step of the thawing of the formerly-tense relationship between A-Rod and team stemming from his one-year drug suspension and litigation when he tried to avoid discipline.
"Maybe it was the video he saw with his first base hit and how fast he was," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's a great hustle play."
The 40-year-old Rodriguez joked about the decline of his speed.
"That's how the slowest man in baseball looks," he said. "I was excited. It's an important game."
Rodriguez added an RBI double in the eighth that chased Dickey, again showing excitement while standing on second.
The Blue Jays said before the game that All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will miss at least two weeks after cracking his left shoulder blade in a collision during the opener of Saturday's doubleheader. Edwin Encarnacion was held out after aggravating a finger injury Saturday.
Dickey (10-11) gave up five runs and seven hits in 7 2-3 innings. The knuckleballer had been 7-0 with a 2.68 ERA in 11 starts since losing at the Chicago White Sox on July 9.
Toronto acquired infielder Darwin Barney from the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league catcher Jack Murphy.
Blue Jays: General manager Alex Anthopoulos said second baseman Devon Travis (shoulder) has yet to take swings or play any games and they are "running out of time" for the rookie to return.
Blue Jays: After an off day, the Blue Jays open a series at Atlanta on Tuesday with Mark Buehrle (14-7) starting, opposed by Julio Teheran (10-7, 4.38).
Yankees: CC Sabathia starts Monday in the opener of a three-game series at Tampa Bay, which starts Erasmo Ramirez (10-5).