ATLANTA -- Didi Gregorius hit a three-run homer and collected a career-high six RBIs, Brian McCann celebrated his return to Atlanta with a three-run shot of his own and the Yankees rolled to a 15-4 victory over the Braves on Friday night at Turner Field.
Gregorius' seventh homer of the year highlighted New York's eight-run pounding of right-hander Williams Perez, who lasted just 1 2/3 innings. Chase Headley also drove in three runs for the Yankees, who remain 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays for the American League East lead.
"We needed that," Gregorius said. "Offensively, we've struggled the last couple days, but we've been working, and trying to get everything going. Today that's what happened."
Starter Masahiro Tanaka surrendered a pair of first-inning runs but righted himself after the Yanks provided four more runs in the second, holding Atlanta to three runs and five hits over seven frames. McCann, who made his big league debut in 2005 at Turner Field, homered in the eighth inning off Andrew McKirahan.
"It was great. I've been saying it all day," McCann said. "I was really excited to come back here and play in front of these fans. It meant a whole lot to me."
Freddie Freeman hit a third-inning homer for the Braves, who have lost 10 of their last 11 games.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Yes, in-Didi: The Yankees struggled to score runs this week, managing just four in three games against the Astros, but bested that in the first inning alone thanks to a pair of big hits with runners in scoring position. Headley drilled a two-run, ground-rule double to left-center and Gregorius followed with a drive into the right-field seats off Perez. The shortstop added a two-run single in the second off Ross Detwiler and an RBI single in the eighth off McKirahan as part of a four-hit performance, tying his career high. More >
"Big evening, offensively and defensively," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He made some really good defensive plays, and sometimes that's not in the box score. He had a great night. To have a homer on Wednesday, and he almost hit [a second] one, too, today; he's swinging the bat good."
Regressing to the mean: When Perez posted a 2.31 ERA while producing an 86 percent strand rate through his first eight career starts, there was reason to assume his good fortunes would soon expire. But the Braves didn't anticipate him producing a 9.87 ERA over his past six starts or struggling as miserably as he did on Friday, when he retired just five of 13 batters he faced. Perez recorded a pair of loud outs to begin his outing against the Yankees and then fell apart after issuing consecutive two-out walks to load the bases before the game's first run was scored. More >
"He's a sinkerball-contact guy and he just got deep in counts and walked some guys and then they got some hits off him," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He was facing some pretty good hitters that you can't get behind against."
Ellsbury runs it down: Tanaka did not look sharp at all in the first inning, giving back some of the early cushion by permitting a run-scoring single to Freeman and a sac fly to Nick Swisher. Christian Bethancourt made good contact on a two-out drive to deep center field, but Jacoby Ellsbury ran the ball down with a tumbling catch, likely saving two runs. Tanaka came back stronger in the second inning, striking out the side -- kicking off what would be a seven-strikeout, one-walk performance.
"Obviously it was nice to get that run support, but I was thinking the offense is picking me up, so I have to try to do my best to shut down their hitters," Tanaka said through an interpreter.
Freddie's pop: Though Freeman has struggled since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 19, he provided some encouragement when he laced an opposite-field single during his final at-bat of Wednesday's loss to the Rockies. Freeman proved this was an encouraging sign as he highlighted Friday's two-hit performance with the third-inning homer he hit to dead center field. The first baseman ended his night by drawing an 11-pitch walk off Justin Wilson in the eighth inning.
"He had a nice offensive night, he didn't give any at-bats away," Gonzalez said. "I think his last at-bat of the night might have been his best one. He battled and battled against a tough left-hander and was able to get on."
VERSATILE VETERAN Jonny Gomes provided Braves fans some excitement when he sprinted in from the bullpen to pitch the ninth inning. This was the first career pitching performance for the veteran outfielder, who surrendered a leadoff home run to Chris Young and back-to-back doubles before retiring each of the next three hitters he faced. He ended his outing by getting Bryan Mitchell to look at a called third strike. More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Including the 1996 and '99 World Series, the Yankees have won 15 of the 17 games they have played in Atlanta. The Braves have gone 12-10 at Yankee Stadium during this same span.
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees:Luis Severino (1-2, 2.74 ERA), rated as the Yankees' No. 1 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, will make his fifth Major League start on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Severino is coming off his first Major League win on Aug. 22 vs. Cleveland, in which he held the Indians to a solo homer among three hits over six innings.
Braves: Atlanta will counter with Matt Wisler (5-4, 5.43 ERA), who allowed four home runs and lasted just 2 2/3 innings during Sunday's start at Wrigley Field. Wisler posted a 3.43 ERA through his first seven career starts, but he has produced a 9.13 ERA in the five starts that have followed .
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.