Tanaka improves to 8-1 as Yankees beat Twins

New York: Masahiro Tanaka struck out nine and scattered four hits while allowing only an unearned run as the New York Yankees beat Minnesota 3-1 Saturday, improving the Japanese pitcher`s record to 8-1.

Tanaka, a 25-year-old right-hander who signed a seven-year Major League Baseball deal for $155 million with the Yankees in January, has lost only once in the past 22 months counting his work on either side of the Pacific Ocean.

"He`s tough," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Tanaka. "Guys were saying the ball was just disappearing and his splitter was unbelievable. He has all the pitches."

Tanaka has the lowest earned-run average in the American League at 2.06 after surrendering only four singles and two walks in eight innings on the mound for the Yankees. He has 88 strikeouts in 78 2/3 innings this season.

"I don`t feel I`m the ace," Tanaka said through a translator. "It`s probably the guys here haven`t seen me."

Yankees catcher Brian McCann marvels at how masterfully Tanaka dispatches rival batters.

"I can`t say enough about him," McCann said. "He commands both sides of the plate and he`s got four or five pitches he can attack you with."

A Kelly Johnson error, a wild pitch and a two-out single by Josh Willingham in the first inning produced the only Twins run.

Yangervis Solarte homered for the Yankees in the fourth inning and New York scored the deciding runs in the eighth on a Brian McCann double and a Johnson infield single.

David Robertson followed Tanaka to the mound to claim his 12th save of the season for the Yankees, who at 29-25 were 2 1/2 games behind AL East division leader Toronto.

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