SEATTLE — In an effort not to overstress his arm, the goal was to get New York Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka into the sixth inning in 80 pitches in his return from the disabled list.
Tanaka blew away that expectation Wednesday. Tanaka was so good and so efficient with his pitch count, New York manager Joe Girardi had to avoid the temptation to send him back out for the eighth inning.
"His stuff was sharp today and his ability to move the ball around and expand the zone when he needed to," Girardi said. "It's not an easy lineup. They've got some boys who can hit the ball out of the ball yard and he did a nice job."
Tanaka gave up one run over seven innings in his return from the disabled list, backed by home runs from Garrett Jones and Mark Teixeira and the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of Seattle Mariners with a 3-1 victory.
Jones homered for the second straight day, hitting a two-run shot in the fourth inning off Seattle starter Taijuan Walker (2-6). Jones hit a three-run home run in the 11th inning of the Yankees' 5-3 victory Tuesday night.
Teixeira added his second home run of the series and his 16th of the season, hitting a solo shot in the second inning that just eluded leaping right fielder Seth Smith at the wall.
"When I'm in there I'm just trying to make the most of it and have fun and not try and do too much, but try and do some damage," Jones said. "I think with any hitter you put a couple of good swings on the ball you start to get that feel."
But the story for the Yankees was Tanaka. Making his first start in more than a month, Tanaka (3-1) was efficient and overpowering, with a bump in velocity on his fastball that had not been seen yet this season.
Despite being on an 80-pitch limit in his return, Tanaka got through seven innings without even reaching the 80-pitch mark, throwing just 78 pitches in handing the Mariners their fifth straight loss.
Tanaka struck out a season-high nine and had zero walks, going to a three-ball count against only two batters.
"I have to agree. I think it is the best outing I've had this season so far," Tanaka said through an interpreter.
Tanaka had not pitched in the majors since April 23 when he went 6 1-3 innings against Detroit and allowed one earned run in a no-decision. He landed on the disabled list five days later with wrist tendinitis and a forearm strain.
"We all wait to see how he feels tomorrow," Girardi said.
The Mariners one chance at a big inning against Tanaka came in the third when Brad Miller tripled and scored on Dustin Ackley's one-hop double off the left field wall.
But the rally ended quickly. With one out, Morrison singled to left, but Ackley was thrown out at the plate on a perfect throw from left fielder Ramon Flores and Austin Jackson struck out looking to end the threat.
"I think if that throw is either way a couple of feet I think I'm safe," Ackley said.
Seattle loaded the bases in the eighth against relievers Chris Capuano and Andrew Miller with one out behind a single, hit batter and walk. But Miller recovered to strike out Logan Morrison after falling behind 3-0, and got a ground out from Austin Jackson to end the threat.
Miller pitched the ninth for his 17th save. Miller is the first player in franchise history to convert his first 17 save opportunities with the club.
Yankees: Catcher Brian McCann left in the second inning with soreness in his right foot. He is scheduled to have an MRI on Thursday in New York. He was replaced by John Ryan Murphy.
Mariners: Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said he's sticking with Fernando Rodney as his closer despite his third blown save of the season on Tuesday night. McClendon said he wants to watch the innings of young right-hander Carson Smith, who has developed into a reliable eighth inning option.
Yankees: New York has a day off Thursday before opening a homestand against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday. Nathan Eovaldi (4-1) will get the start.
Mariners: LHP Roenis Elias (2-2) tries to rebound from a loss in his last start when he faces Tampa Bay on Thursday.