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New York Yankees Ichiro Suzuki dives back to first base ahead of a pick-off attempt throw to Seattle Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison, right, in the fourth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, June 11, 2014, in Seattle.

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Seattle Mariners' Logan Morrison, right, tosses his bat after striking out swinging as New York Yankees catcher Brian McCann, left, and home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski stand near in the fourth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, June 11, 2014 in Seattle.

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SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 11: Starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning at Safeco Field on June 11, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.

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SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 11: Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees singles in the seventh inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 11, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.

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David Phelps silences Athletics as Yankees roll to 7-0 win

Phelps blanked Oakland for 6.2 innings in his best start of the season, giving up two hits and three walks while striking out four.

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David Phelps blanks Oakland for 6.2 innings in his best start of the season.

OAKLAND – Very little about Friday night’s matchup appeared to be in the Yankees’ favor.

Oakland featured the highest-scoring offense and the best record in the American League, while David Phelps was riding the longest losing streak of his career and was pitching in a place where the Yankees had lost seven straight over the past two years.

It was David vs. Goliath.

David won.

Phelps silenced the Athletics’ mighty bats while the Yankees’ resurgent offense busted out for a second straight night, disappointing the rare sellout crowd as the Bombers rolled to a 7-0 win, their first at the Coliseum in more than two years.

“It’s definitely one of the best starts of my career, probably,” said Phelps, who had lost four straight starts, posting a 6.57 ERA in the process. “Come in here against a team that’s first in its division with one of the best records in baseball. My biggest thing is going out and trying to give us a chance to win every time out.

“Our offense gave me a chance to be successful out there, so I tip my cap to them because they did a great job for me, giving me a cushion early on. They made some great plays behind me on the defensive side too.”

Phelps blanked Oakland for 6.2 innings in his best start of the season, giving up two hits and three walks while striking out four.

Six different Yankees drove in runs as the offense had its most productive night in more than two weeks. After going 12 consecutive games without topping the four-run mark, the Bombers have now scored 13 in the past two games, extending their winning streak to four games.

“That's the recipe for scoring a lot of runs,” Joe Girardi said of the balanced attack. “That's what you need to do at times. Through all this, the guys have kept at it. They've had their struggles but they've kept at it. We're hitting the ball hard.”

Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury opened the game with singles against Oakland ace Sonny Gray, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead on Ellsbury’s hit. That also extended the center fielder’s hitting streak to 17 games, the longest active streak in the majors.

Mark Teixeira added a sac fly, pushing the lead to two runs. The Yankees went back to work in the second, tacking on a third run on Gardner’s second hit of the night, a single that scored Brian Roberts to make it 3-0.

"We have very good hitters one through nine, and it's fun when guys are swinging the bats well, putting good at-bats together,” Ellsbury said. “I think that was the key tonight, just getting some big hits with runners in scoring position."

Oakland went down in order in each of the first three innings as Phelps retired 10 straight batters to start the game. John Jaso drew a one-out walk in the fourth to give the Athletics their first baserunner, but Phelps sat down both Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss, leaving Oakland without a hit through four frames.

Gray settled in after his shaky start, retiring 11 straight Yankees between the third and sixth before Ichiro Suzuki beat out an infield hit to snap the pitcher’s streak.

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Derek Jeter is congratulated by Brian McCann after he scores on a sacrifice fly by Mark Teixeira in the first inning.

Phelps issued a one-out walk to Jed Lowrie in the fifth, then Derek Norris broke up the no-hitter with a soft liner over Kelly Johnson’s head at third base, giving the Athletics a chance to get back into the game.

But Phelps got Andy Parrino to fly out to center then retired Kyle Blanks on a grounder to strand the two runners and keep the shutout alive.

“My biggest goals today were first-pitch strikes and leadoff outs,” Phelps said. “That negates big innings by just doing those things. You see what Chase (Whitley) did yesterday. He threw 24 of 29 first-pitch strikes, and it’s amazing. It’s what we strive to do. It’s always something I need to be trying to do.”

A double play helped Phelps erase a leadoff walk in the sixth, but after getting the first two outs in the seventh, Lowrie launched a double on the righthander’s 102nd pitch of the game, ending his night.

Dellin Betances extinguished any thought of an Oakland rally, retiring Norris to end the seventh. The Yankees broke the game open with four runs in the eighth, getting three straight RBI hits from the bottom three hitters in the lineup to ice the game.

“Phelpsie was great; that's as good as I’ve seen him pitch,” Teixeira said. “Moving the ball in and out of the zone, keeping them off-balance when he needed to. That was a team effort offensively, we played good defense; that’s just a good team win.”

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Now Teixeira has a sore rib cage? This guy is nothing but a waste of space.

How many different body parts has he injured since he joined the Yankees??

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How many different body parts has he injured since he joined the Yankees??

More than enough. And he's still got more to go.

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As Blue Jays come to Bronx, Yankees open 15-game stretch that will show if Bombers are contenders or pretenders

Masahiro Tanaka starts in the series opener Tuesday night as the Yankees welcome Toronto, who lead the AL East by 4.5 games.

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The Blue Jays will get a second crack at Masahiro Tanaka on Tuesday. He shut the Blue Jays down in his first start for the Yankees, striking out eight over seven innings.

The trips to the West Coast are over, the week in Chicago is in the past, and the 10 games without the use of a designated hitter are finally done.

After spending six weeks roaming around the rest of the divisions in baseball, it’s time for the Yankees to get down to business in the AL East.

Tuesday, the second-place Yankees welcome the first-place Blue Jays to the Bronx for a key three-game set that also jumpstarts a string of 15 straight games against AL East opponents that could help determine whether the Yankees will spend their summer as contenders or pretenders.

“You don’t want to make too much of it, but it’s obviously an important period when you’re going to see the teams that we’re going to see,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s a huge stretch against East Coast teams. You have a chance to make up ground and put distance between other teams and yourself. I think it’s really important.”

The Yankees were 16-14 and tied for first place in the division when they embarked on their six-week journey around the league, and while their 19-19 stretch hasn’t knocked them into a Tampa Bay-sized hole — the Rays are a whopping 13games out — they enter the week 4.5 games behind Toronto.

The Yankees and Jays will meet six times in the next nine days, while the Bombers will also host the Orioles, Red Sox and Rays between now and July 2.

“Every stretch against AL East opponents is big, but it would be nice to take a couple series,” David Robertson said. “There’s definitely opportunity to separate yourself from the rest. You get hot, maybe mix in a sweep and win two or three series in a row, you can jump to the top.”

The Blue Jays were a trendy pick to win the AL East — and even the World Series — a year ago, having added players such as Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle to an already talented roster.

But injuries and inconsistency doomed Toronto to a 74-win, fifth-place season, leading many to predict another woeful season in 2014 for a franchise that hasn’t won more than 88 games or reached the postseason since its last World Series campaign in 1993.

A 13-17 start made those prognosticators look good, prompting some to ask when — not if — manager John Gibbons would be fired.

But the Jays heated up in May, riding the hot bats of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista and a rejuvenated Buehrle to a 25-7 stretch, turning a 3.5-game deficit into a six-game division lead.

“You knew how dangerous they were offensively,” Girardi said. “They went through some injuries last year just like everybody else. Sometimes it’s hard to overcome those. They’ve had a pretty consistent rotation, for the most part, this year. They’ve had some changes to make, they’ve had some guys that have gotten out to great starts. But we knew that they were very talented.”

How dangerous is Toronto’s offense?

The Blue Jays entered the week ranked first in the AL in home runs (92), extra-base hits (224), slugging percentage (.435) and OPS (.764) and second in runs scored (329). The Yankees were no higher than 10th in any of those categories, ranking 14th in runs scored (270) and dead-last in extra-base hits (168).

“Up and down the lineup they have guys hitting the ball out of the ballpark,” Mark Teixeira said. “They stepped it up a little bit, and that’s why they’re a first-place team right now.”

Fortunately for the Yankees, they’ll send Masahiro Tanaka to the mound for Tuesday’s series opener. Tanaka made his debut in Toronto on April 4, allowing three runs (two earned) over seven innings to earn the win.

Toronto will become only the second team to see Tanaka for a second time. Although the Cubs slapped the righthander with his first and only loss when they got a second look at Tanaka, Girardi isn’t worried about his ace being at a disadvantage.

“They’re a very good lineup, whether you see them the first time or the fifth time,” Girardi said of Tanaka, who is 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA since his lone defeat. “They’re extremely dangerous so, yeah, I’m looking forward to it. My thought is he’s going to do fine; I wouldn’t think that he wouldn’t.”

STAR POWER: Even on a day off, Derek Jeter makes news, and possibly history. The Yankee captain is less than five million votes from becoming the all-time All-Star vote-getter, Major League Baseball said as it announced the latest All-Star voting totals Monday.

Jeter, who has 1,810,451 votes this year, now has 45,315,271 for his career. Ken Griffey Jr. is the all-time leader with 50,045,065. Jeter is also closing is on becoming the seventh player in history to be voted to start by the fans at least nine times.

He would join Cal Ripken Jr. (17), George Brett (11), Griffey (10), Rod Carew, Ichiro Suzuki and Ivan Rodriguez (9 each). This year’s All-Star Game will be held July 15 at Target Field in Minnesota.

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Masahiro Tanaka dominates Blue Jays as Yankees win opener with AL East-leading Toronto

Brett Gardner's two-run home run gives Tanaka all the run support he needs as Yankees gain a game in division race in opener of crucial stretch.

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Masahiro Tanaka (l.) picks up his 11th win of the season and that gets a pat on the back from the Captain, Derek Jeter, as the Yankees open a crucial series with the Blue Jays with a 3-1 win Tuesday.

Is Masahiro Tanaka the best pitcher on the planet?

Those were the words CC Sabathia used to describe his teammate Tuesday afternoon, and after watching Tanaka handle the first-place Blue Jays later in the day, there’s no reason to argue otherwise.

Tanaka became the majors’ first 11-game winner, allowing one run over six innings to lead the Yankees to a 3-1 win over Toronto.

“I told him after his last start that I was going to start leaving my glove in the dugout and just run out to left field,” said Brett Gardner, whose two-run homer in the third accounted for all the runs Tanaka needed. “All you need to do is get him a couple of runs and we’ll get the win and that’s what happened tonight.”

The righthander gave up five hits and walked two, striking out 10 for his fifth double-digit strikeout game of the season. Tanaka (11-1) has thrown quality starts in all 14 of his big-league outings, while he lowered his league-best ERA from 2.02 to 1.99.

“It’s hard to say that his start isn’t as good as anyone who has pitched,” Joe Girardi said.

As usual, the only one who didn’t seem all that impressed by the pitcher’s outing was Tanaka himself.

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Brett Gardner’s two-run home run in the third inning gives Tanaka all the cushion he needs.

“Overall, I think my stuff wasn’t really there tonight,” Tanaka said through his translator. “All I was trying to do was to hang in there and try to keep the ball down as much as possible.”

Tanaka now ranks first or is tied for the AL lead in wins, ERA, WHIP, winning percentage and complete games, ranking in the top three in strikeouts and innings pitched. He has firmly cemented himself as the favorite to start the All-Star Game for the AL, not to mention as the early frontrunner for both the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards.

“I don’t think it’s fair to expect that from anyone,” Girardi said. “I don’t care what your stuff is, I don’t care if you throw 110 (mph); what he’s done has been remarkable.”

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Tanaka strikes out 10 over six innings.

Dellin Betances fired a pair of scoreless innings, setting up David Robertson for his 17th save of the season. The win moved the Yankees within 3.5 games of the first-place Jays, who have lost 14 straight games at Yankee Stadium dating back to September of 2012. The two teams meet five more times in the next eight days.

This was Tanaka’s second time facing Toronto, which scored three runs (two earned) over seven innings against the righthander in his big-league debut — a 7-3 Yankees win — on April 4 at Rogers Centre. Before Tuesday night, only the Cubs had seen Tanaka twice, with Chicago handing him his lone loss on May 20 in their second meeting. Tanaka had given up a leadoff home run to Melky Cabrera to start his career, so it was déjà vu when Jose Reyes took Tanaka deep on the first pitch Tuesday.

“I think it was probably the first time in my career that I gave up a first-pitch home run to a batter,” Tanaka said. “I think just giving up that home run threw me off of my rhythm a little bit.”

The Blue Jays put two more runners on in the opening inning, but Tanaka struck out Dioner Navarro to end the threat, needing 22 pitches to get through the frame.

“I think the leadoff homer probably hurt them more than it helped them,” Gardner said. “It just made him mad, really, and when he gets mad he really battles and he doesn’t give in, doesn’t give them any pitches to hit.”

Righthander Marcus Stroman (3-2) set the Yankees down quietly in the first two innings, but Kelly Johnson doubled with one out in the third, setting up Gardner’s two-run shot off the bottom of the right-field foul pole. Tanaka made the one-run lead feel far more comfortable for the Yankees, retiring six of the next seven batters — five via strikeout, giving him 10 through five innings.

Tanaka got through a scoreless sixth with 104 pitches under his belt, handing over a two-run lead to the well-rested bullpen. “He’s been a big part of our success this year,” Girardi said, stating the obvious. “He continues just to grind out starts, make adjustments, give us distance — and he wins.”

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Yankees' Chase Whitley, without best stuff, aces AL East-leading Blue Jays

For a team whose lineup Whitley praised earlier in the week, the Blue Jays were certainly the ones marveling after the game. Whitley’s only struggles occurred in the fourth inning.

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Rookie Chase Whitley shuts down the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

Chase Whitley may not share the stardom that Masahiro Tanaka enjoys, but the Yankees aren’t complaining.

Whitley improved to 3-0 in giving the Bombers another five solid innings of work on Wednesday night at the Stadium, en route to the Yanks’ 7-3 win over the Blue Jays.

Joe Girardi always asks his starters to go as deep into the game as possible, and if that doesn’t work, he asks for them to exit the game leaving the Yankees with the best chance to win. That’s exactly what Whitley did — and has done in all of his seven starts.

The rookie righthander’s pitch count grew quickly — he had thrown 50 pitches after three innings — but, as usual, he managed to minimize the damage. Whitley credited his comfort level as the reason he is able to limit runs. And it's increased with every start.

“It’s like the first day of school,” Whitley said. “You’re nervous and then you get comfortable and as the school year goes on you get more comfortable.”

For a team whose lineup Whitley praised earlier in the week, the Blue Jays were certainly the ones marveling after the game. Whitley’s only struggles occurred in the fourth inning when he allowed two runs on three hits.

“You don’t see that very often from a rookie pitcher like that,” Blue Jays cleanup hitter Edwin Encarnacion said.

Whitley exited the game after the fifth inning, having thrown a season-high 95 pitches. And despite leaving the game earlier than he would have liked, the righthander felt that he achieved a milestone.

“I think I fell behind some guys and today I wouldn't say I had my best pitches,” Whitley said. “This is the first time I had to bear down and battle without my best stuff.”

Whitley walked Melky Cabrera in the fifth inning, marking his first walk allowed in his last 133 batters faced. He also yielded five hits and struck out one.

Whitley’s success is no longer a surprise to Girardi, who said the team’s expectations from his debut to now have completely changed.

And with Whitley’s win, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he became the second Yankees pitcher in franchise history to start his career with seven consecutive games without a loss. The other: Tanaka.

CC HITS THE HILL

CC Sabathia (knee) threw off a mound for the second time this week and “felt good,” according to Girardi.

Sabathia is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Saturday, when his pitch count will increase. His timetable for returning remains unclear.

“I can’t give you an exact time,” Girardi said. “You’re building up a starter, trying to build him up to 90 pitches.”

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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 18: Chase Whitley of the New York Yankees pitches in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on June 18, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City.

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New York Yankees' Alfonso Soriano hits a first-inning RBI single in a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium in New York, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.

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New York Yankees starting pitcher Chase Whitley delivers in a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium in New York, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.

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New York Yankees catcher Brian McCann throws to first on Munenoria Kawasaki's third-inning, infield dribbler in a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium in New York, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.

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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 18: Ichiro Suzuki of the New York Yankees scores a run in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on June 18, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 7-3.

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New York Yankees Brian McCann hits a seventh-inning, three-run triple off Toronto Blue Jays reliever Brett Cecil in a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.

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For slumping Yangervis Solarte, single is worth the wait

Solarte’s chance came later in the blowout loss to the Blue Jays, as he entered the game in the eighth, when Joe Girardi gave some of his starters a rest.

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Yangervis Solarte snaps a long hitless streak in Monday's loss to the Blue Jays.

TORONTO — Yangervis Solarte watched from the bench Monday night as Kelly Johnson started another game at third base, leaving the 26-year-old to wait for his next opportunity to snap out of his career-worst 0-for-28 skid.

“That happens in baseball,” Solarte said before the game. “I know I did good for two months, but now I’ve had a week of doing bad. For me, I fight during every at-bat. I think every at-bat has been good; I see them on video and I feel good. I’m just going to keep going.”

Solarte’s chance came later in the blowout loss to the Blue Jays, as he entered the game in the eighth, when Joe Girardi gave some of his starters a rest. Solarte came to bat with two men on in the ninth and singled to center field to snap the hitless streak that dated back to June 8.

“I’m so glad that’s over,” a relieved Solarte said.

SAVING THE PEN

Long man David Huff was one of the few bright spots Monday, tossing 32/3 innings of one-hit, shutout ball to help preserve the bullpen for Tuesday. Shawn Kelley pitched a scoreless eighth after Huff was taken out.

“(Huff) was great,” Girardi said. “He really saved the bullpen. We only had to use one other guy besides him, so our bullpen is pretty good shape.”

JETER TAKES A SEAT

Derek Jeter sat out the first game of the three-game set against the Blue Jays as Girardi took advantage of a night game-after-day game scenario to get the soon-to-be 40-year-old a little extra rest. With Jeter on the bench, Girardi used Carlos Beltran in the No. 2 spot for only the third time this season. . . . CC Sabathia will throw live batting practice in Tampa on Tuesday, an exercise he will likely repeat again a couple days later. Sabathia could be in a rehab game by the end of the week.

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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27: Vidal Nuno of the New York Yankees pitches in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on June 27, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City.

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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27: Ichiro Suzuki of the New York Yankees makes a catch on a ball hit by Stephen Drew of the Boston Red Sox to end the second inning at Yankee Stadium on June 27, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City.

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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27: Kelly Johnson of the New York Yankees follows through on a fourth inning two run home run against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on June 27, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City.

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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27: Brian McCann of the New York Yankees hits an eighth inning two run home run against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on June 27, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City.

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Vidal Nuno silences Red Sox bats while Kelly Johnson, Brett Gardner and Brian McCann homer in Yankees' 6-0 win

Nuno's win, his first since May 7, has to feel like sweet vindication. For the past week much of the back-chatter has been about whether the Yankees could afford to keep him in the starting rotation and why, given Thursday's off day, his turn was not being skipped.

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Vidal Nuno holds the Red Sox to just three hits on Friday night as he pitches 5 2/3 shutout innings in the Yankees' 6-0 victory.

Vidal Nuno finally ran into a lineup he could dominate.

The Red Sox are in a bad way, and Friday night might have been a measure of just how bad it is. They made Nuno, the struggling Yankees lefthander, look like ace Masahiro Tanaka. Nuno shut Boston out over 5.2 innings, and with the help of home runs from Kelly Johnson, Brett Gardner and Brian McCann, the Yankees topped Boston, 6-0, before a sellout crowd of 48,522 at the Stadium.

Boston managed only three hits as it lost for the sixth time in eight games.

Nuno’s win, his first since May 7 and first ever in the Bronx, has to feel like sweet vindication. For the past week, much of the back-chatter has been about whether the Yankees could afford to keep him in the starting rotation and why,

given Thursday’s off day, his turn was not skipped. After all, Nuno had allowed 13 home runs at home this season.

“Pretty much it’s a confidence booster tonight, like to show that I can still belong here,” Nuno said. “It’s been a couple of weeks. It’s been a grind. . . . Every day has been tough lately, just knowing that my command wasn’t there.”

Joe Girardi bristled before the game when he was asked one last time why he hadn’t skipped Nuno to go with Tanaka, who pitches Saturday. His answer — “who should I start?” — wasn’t exactly a show of faith, but Nuno (2-4) rewarded it nonetheless.

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Brett Gardner celebrates with the newly turned 40-year-old Derek Jeter after belting a solo home run in the third inning.

He gave up just two hits and two walks and struck out five. He let only one Red Sox reach scoring position — Brock Holt, who doubled in the third inning — and got Dustin Pedroia to fly out and David Ortiz to ground out, ending the threat.

“He fights,” Girardi said of Nuno. “It’s not a guy that throws 95. It’s not a guy with a wipeout slider. It’s just a guy that goes out and competes and finds a way to get it done. He’s beaten a lot of the odds, in a sense, where he’s had to almost start over and come back (from a 2013 groin injury) and worked his way up. He throws strikes.”

But after a two-out walk to Ortiz on his 91st pitch, Nuno was lifted by Girardi and exited to a standing ovation. Dellin Betances finished the sixth and pitched a scoreless seventh. Adam Warren retired the side in order in the eighth. Matt Thornton held a six-run lead in the ninth with a 1-2-3 inning.

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Brian McCann launches a two-run home run into the second deck in the eighth inning.

The Yankees got on the board in the first with a Derek Jeter single, a Jacoby Ellsbury double and a Mark Teixeira sac fly. The rest of the offense came on home runs as the Bombers got three for the fifth time this season and first time since May 17.

“It seems like we been hitting a few more, so I believe they’re going to come,” Girardi said. “We went through some times when they were up and down, but I really believe that these guys are going to contribute and put up numbers.”

Johnson’s two-run homer was followed immediately by Gardner’s blast, the Yanks’ first back-to-back longballs since May 2 against Tampa Bay. McCann hit a two-run shot in the eighth off lefthander Craig Breslow that landed in the second deck in right, his ninth homer of the season.

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Kelly Johnson rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning.

“That’s great: when you can put up crooked numbers in multiple innings it’s really important, and you can build your lead,” Girardi said.

“Those two tack-on runs are important there. It’s a big hit for Mac, and that’s what we want to see.”

Still Nuno was the story of the day and might have quieted the groundswell to seek another option — either David Huff or Warren — to fill that spot in the rotation until either CC Sabathia returns from the disabled list or the Bombers make an acquisition. The Yankees have 17 games in 17 days going into the All-Star break and Nuno is likely to make three more starts before he is replaced.

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What about Nuno's last start?

Pretty safe to say nobody saw that coming!

I'm happy for him. I like all our young players and hope they continue to get a chance. I have no use for those overpriced SOB's like Sabathia and Teixeira.

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