New York Yankees' Didi Gregorius. Photo by David Banks/UPI | License Photo
ATLANTA -- The New York Yankees' previously sluggish offense got a big-time boost from an unexpected source Friday night.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius went 4-for-5 with a homer and a career-high six RBIs as the Yankees broke out for a 15-4 interleague rout of the Atlanta Braves to remain 1 1/2 games behind Toronto in the American League East.
"I felt really good," said Gregorius, whose out was a long drive to center field. "We need this. The offense had been struggling the last couple games. I was just trying to help the team win."
The Yankees (70-57) backed right-hander Masahiro Tanaka with five runs in the first inning and four more in the second after scoring just four times in their previous three games.
"It was big (to get that start) and it probably got our guys relaxed a little bit," manager Joe Girardi said. "The amazing thing was we did it with no one out and two outs (both times)."
Catcher Brian McCann, playing his first game at Turner Field since leaving the Braves to sign with the Yankees as a free agent before last season, hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning and left fielder Chris Young connected in the ninth as outfielder Jonny Gomes mopped up on the mound.
"It's not a good feeling," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I know that Jonny was having a good time out there, but when you sit in the dugout you always think that somebody in that position will get hurt."
It was the 23rd homer of the season for McCann, who also walked three times and had a sacrifice fly before a crowd of 35,546 dominated by Yankees fans.
The three-run shot by Gregorius in the first inning was his seventh homer of the season and second in two games. The Yankees had gone 144 at-bats without a home run until he connected in the seventh inning Wednesday against Houston.
"Big evening, offensively and defensively," Girardi said. "He had a great night. ... He's swinging the bat good. ... It's got to feel good (to get six RBIs)."
Tanaka (10-6) retired 13 straight batters between a third-inning homer by Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and a double by shortstop Andrelton Simmons with two outs in the seventh.
Three of the five hits and the only walk yielded by Tanaka came in the first inning. He struck out seven in seven innings, throwing 70 of his 100 pitches for strikes.
"He was a little uphill in the first inning, then made an adjustment and got things going," Girardi said. "I thought he threw the ball well, especially after the first inning."
Right fielder Carlos Beltran had two singles and a double for the Yankees in extending his hitting streak to 11 games, while third baseman Chase Headley drove in three runs with a pair of doubles. Young's homer was his 15th of the year.
The loss was the 10th in the last 11 games for Atlanta (54-74). The Braves are 12-32 since being 42-42 on July 7.
Braves rookie right-hander Williams Perez (4-5) lasted just 1 2/3 innings while being charged with eight runs on five hits and three walks. His ERA jumped from 4.76 to 5.56.
Perez retired the first two batters in each of the opening two innings. Then disaster struck for the 24-year-old native of Venezuela.
"That's one of the things young starting pitchers go through ... they get two quick outs and then they just can't finish the inning," Gonzalez said. "I think it's just a matter of it's a young pitcher we're running out there."
Headley had a ground-rule double after a single and two walks in the first inning before Gregorius pulled a three-run homer into the right-field seats to make it 5-0.
The Braves scored twice in the bottom of the first off Tanaka, and only a circus catch by Jacoby Ellsbury in deep center kept the inning from being worse.
Tanaka batted twice in the second inning, By the time he batted the second time, Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler had issued two bases-loaded walks and Gregorius had delivered a two-run single to make it 9-2.
NOTES: 1B Mark Teixeira was out of the Yankees lineup because of continued soreness in his bruised right shin. He fouled a ball off his leg Aug. 17 and has played just twice since. ... The Yankees reinstated RHP Bryan Mitchell from the seven-day concussion list and he allowed a run on two hits and a walk over 1 1/3 innings. Mitchell was hit in the face by a line drive Aug. 17. ... The Yankees last played at Atlanta in 2009, winning two of three games. ... The Braves took two of three at New York in 2012. ... Rookies will face each other in the middle game of the weekend series Saturday night, with RHP Luis Severino (1-2, 2.74 ERA) pitching for the Yankees against RHP Matt Wisler (5-4, 5.43 ERA). ... C Christian Bethancourt was in the Braves lineup for the third time in four games since being recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett. ... LHP Chris Capuano, designated for assignment by the Yankees, cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the fourth time.