The Yankees had lost three of four heading into Sunday and face the unenviable task of hosting the Astros this week, who will throw Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel at them.
So to avoid their first real rough patch since the season’s opening weeks, the Yankees were in need of a victory over the Angels — and Masahiro Tanaka delivered in a 3-1 win in The Bronx.
Tanaka came up with his best start in a month, limiting the Angels to one run on three hits over six innings.
It followed a string of five games in which only one Yankees starter, Luis Severino, lasted past the fifth inning.
For Tanaka, it came after three shaky outings in which he had surrendered five homers and 11 earned runs in 15 ¹/₃ innings.
On Sunday, he also struck out eight — as many as he had in his previous three starts combined.
The Yankees were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position in the first three innings but still got to Garrett Richards for three runs in the third.
The right-hander gave up nine runs in just 1 ²/₃ innings against the Yankees on April 28 in Anaheim.
He wasn’t that bad Sunday, but he was far from good.
The Yankees threatened in the first with Brett Gardner’s leadoff single followed by an Aaron Judge walk, but Richards got Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius to get out of the 27-pitch inning unscathed.
After stranding two more in the second, the Yankees broke through in the third.
Judge singled to start the inning, but Stanton was caught looking for a second time. Sanchez nearly homered on a 3-0 pitch before he drew a walk. The runners advanced on Richards’ third wild pitch of the game. Richards then walked Gregorius on four pitches to load the bases with one out for Aaron Hicks.
Hicks walked to force in Judge and give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. At that point, Richards finally got the hook after walking five in just 2 ¹/₃ innings.
Jose Alvarez came on and promptly drilled Greg Bird to push another run across. Miguel Andujar’s groundout scored Gregorius to make it 3-0.
Tanaka gave up a homer to Andrelton Simmons with one out in the sixth before David Robertson pitched a scoreless seventh and Dellin Betances was brought in to start the eighth. He walked Zack Cozart but got Mike Trout to ground out and Simmons to hit into an inning-ending double play.
Aroldis Chapman, who warmed up briefly in the seventh and had his left knee wrapped in ice after picking up a four-out save Friday, pitched the ninth.
He issued a leadoff walk to Shohei Ohtani and threw a pair of wild pitches but got the save.
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