Tanaka allowed only two hits and struck out 10 hitters on 111 pitches for the Yankees' third straight win. New York has a 1 1/2-game lead over Tampa Bay for first place in the AL East Division.
"It makes it even better to be able to go nine innings facing the Rays, who are up there [in the standings] with us," Tanaka said through a translator.
New York improved to 5-2 in seven games against Tampa Bay this season. Tanaka is 2-0 with a 0.41 ERA in three starts against the Rays this year.
Tanaka became the first Yankees pitcher to throw a two-hitter with 10 or more strikeouts since Mike Mussina did it on Sept. 24, 2002, according to MLB.com. Mussina also accomplished the feat against Tampa Bay.
"You need performances like that sprinkled throughout the year to preserve guys," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "It becomes a big reset day when you can have that kind of performance."
Tanaka is 5-5 with a 3.23 ERA in 15 starts this season. He has 84 strikeouts in 92 innings.