May 3, 2014 10:28PM
By Rick Freeman
NEW YORK — The last time Masahiro Tanaka lost a regular season game, Mark Teixeira was a reliable slugger in the heart of the Yankees’ batting order.
Since August 2012, Teixeira has hurt a wrist and hamstring, missing most of last season and half of the first month of this season. He’s back looking like his usual bashing self — just in time to help Tanaka on Saturday.
Teixeira homered for the fourth time in his last five games and drove in three runs as the Yankees rallied past the Tampa Bay Rays 9-3 and stopped a season-high, three-game losing streak.
“You want to put up numbers. You want to put up those home runs, and you want to drive in runs for your team, and when you start seeing that, then it makes you feel better about where you are physically,” Teixeira. “It’s been a struggle the last year coming back from this injury, but so far the results have been good this year.”
Teixeira reached 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first three years with the Yankees before dropping to 24 homers and and 84 RBIs in 123 games in 2012.
In 14 games this season, he has five homers to tie for the team lead and has 10 RBIs.
“I never doubted him,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I said all along he was a guy who could be 30 and a hundred for us.”
Tanaka extended his regular-season unbeaten streak to 40 starts, and Kelly Johnson hit a tiebreaking solo homer in the sixth inning off Josh Lueke (0-2), who also gave up a run-scoring single to Teixeira and a sacrifice fly to Alfonso Soriano in a two-run seventh.
Tanaka (4-0) gave up solo homers to Desmond Jennings and Wil Myers around an RBI single by Ryan Hanigan, falling behind 3-0 by the fourth and looking shaky by the standard set over his first five big league starts.
“I think I was able to get my rhythm back as I got deeper into the game,” Tanaka said through an interpreter.
New York’s offense did the rest. Teixeira hit a two-run homer in the fourth, and Jacoby Ellsbury’s RBI single in the fifth tied it at 3. Tanaka allowed three runs and eight hits in seven innings, striking out his last two batters to give him five or the day.
“He just grinded it out,” said Tampa Bay’s Matt Joyce, who struck out attempting to bunt for a hit in the first inning. “He was a little frustrated with himself at times. You could tell. And he just kept working through it.”
Tanaka is 32-0 in regular season games since losing to Seibu on Aug. 19, 2012. He did lose Game 6 of last year’s Japan Series.
Jake Odorizzi retired the first nine Yankees in order, then allowed New York to go 4 for 8 with two walks before he was replaced by Cesar Ramos. Opponents are batting .140 (7 for 50) against Odorizzi in his first time through the batting order, .442 (19 for 43) his second time through and .500 (9 for 18) the third.
Ellsbury led off the fourth with a single to start the Yankees’ offense, and Texeira followed with his shot. Brett Gardner added a two-run single in a three-run eighth inning.
New York stranded two or more runners twice in the first five innings after doing it it four times Friday, including three times in extra innings during a 14-inning loss.
NOTES: Girardi said the 12-pitch at bad by Yangervis Solarte ending the third may have helped the Yankees break through against Odorizzi by making the young right-hander work and show his repertoire. ... The Yankees selected the contract of RHP Alfredo Aceves from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre early Saturday. ... James Loney had three hits, keeping alive a hit streak over his last 13 games at new Yankee Stadium. Myers has hit in all 12 of his games at the ballpark. ... Sunday’s game is a matchup of left-handers, New York’s CC Sabathia (3-3) vs. Erik Bedard (0-1). ... Ellsbury had three hits, two runs and a steal.