OAKLAND -- Masahiro Tanaka returned to form with seven strong innings and Starlin Castro notched three hits as the Yankees won their fourth straight contest on Saturday, posting a 5-1 victory over the Athletics at the Coliseum.
Tanaka scattered five hits with two walks, limiting the A's to Danny Valencia's fifth-inning sacrifice fly as he struck out four and picked up his second victory of the season. The Yankees' starting pitching has not been a strength this year, but they have logged four straight quality starts on this trip.
"I actually think that the starting rotation is starting to pitch better," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "For me, for today's game, I was trying to sort of match what the other guys did."
New York thumped rookie Sean Manaea for five runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings, including a four-run fourth, as they moved out of last place in the American League East for the first time since April 23.
"I think we have our sights set on .500, and once we get to .500, we're going to keep climbing," Chase Headley said. "It's so early. It's just important for us to get back to .500 and hopefully get back in contention."
Castro singled and scored as part of that big frame, which was highlighted by Rob Refsnyder's two-run double. One of the Yankees' more consistent performers this year, Castro added a single in the fifth, then doubled home a run in the seventh.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Ref calls for two: Appearing in the Yankees' lineup for the first time this season, Refsnyder cracked the biggest blow in New York's four-run fourth inning, working a 10-pitch at-bat before driving a two-run double to the warning track in right-center field. The Yanks' No. 9 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, Refsnyder has rotated between second base, third base and right field in the Minors, and logged his first big league start in right field on Saturday. More >
"It was nice to get [Tanaka] a lead. You got some big hits," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You had a big hit from Ref to kind of open it up a little bit and allow him to go to work."
Fourth inning falters: One day after the Yankees chased Sonny Gray after 3 1/3 innings, another A's starter unraveled in the fourth. Like Gray, Manaea battled his control in the fourth inning, walking two batters as the Yankees scored four runs, highlighted by Refsnyder's bases-clearing double. The left-hander threw 32 pitches in the inning alone after needing just 33 to get through the first three. More >
"I think I just lost focus there a little bit," Manaea said. "I let my mind wander and I didn't get it back. That's completely on me, I wasn't executing a plan that we'd talked about before."
Tanaka bends, doesn't break: Tanaka worked himself into trouble in both the third and fifth innings, loading the bases with one out, but he limited the damage. Tanaka struck out Valencia looking and got Khris Davis to ground out, leaving three men on in the third, and permitted just Valencia's sacrifice fly to center field in the fifth. The quality start was a step forward for Tanaka, who had permitted 10 runs in 12 innings over his previous two starts.
"I think the two-seamer was working well today," Tanaka said. "Being able to put the two-seamer in good locations, I think that was one of the keys."
Lack of lumber: The A's entered their weekend series on a four-game winning streak and had scored at least seven runs in three of those four games. But their bats have gone cold -- Oakland has scored five runs vs. New York -- and they squandered opportunities Saturday. The A's loaded the bases in both the third and fifth innings but walked away with just one run to show for it. Oakland's yet to hit a home run this series after blasting six in its previous series against the Rangers.
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Saturday's contest marked the 1,500th game of Joe Girardi's managerial career. The victory improved Girardi's career record to 833-667 (755-583 with the Yankees).
"I was kind of shocked to hear that. It means I'm getting old," Girardi said. "I've been fortunate to be able to manage that many games at this level. I'm very thankful."
The Athletics successfully challenged a call at first base in the fifth inning, as New York's Ronald Torreyes was initially ruled safe on a ground ball to shortstop Marcus Semien. A review of 54 seconds determined that Semien's throw beat Torreyes to the bag, overturning the call.
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees: Right-hander Michael Pineda (1-5, 6.60 ERA) will try to put his issues in the stretch position behind him on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET as the Yankees will look to sweep their four-game series in Oakland. Pineda has lost each of his last two starts, allowing 11 runs and 15 hits in 10 2/3 innings to the Royals and D-backs.
A's: Right-hander Jesse Hahn (1-1, 3.38 ERA) takes the mound in the series finale against the Yankees at 1:05 p.m. PT, his second start since his second callup of the season. He went 6 2/3 innings and allowed three runs, 10 hits and one walk with two strikeouts against the Rangers in his last start. He was 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA in five starts with Triple-A Nashville.