CINCINNATI — A giddy, tired group of Yankees had filed into the cramped Wrigley Field clubhouse early Monday morning, thrilled by their 18-inning win against the Cubs.
But they also dreaded what was to follow.
A long bus ride to O’Hare airport awaited, followed by a flight to Cincinnati that would arrive at dawn.
In the Yankees’ rush to dress and depart Chicago, one of the players thought of Tuesday’s starter Masahiro Tanaka, who had flown ahead for Tuesday night’s start, missing the six-hour, five-minute marathon.
“I’ll bet he’s livin’,” the smiling Yankee shouted as he dropped the name of a popular steakhouse, where he imagined Tanaka might have enjoyed a casual dinner.
Tanaka might have been the freshest Yankee, but his teammates scored three times before he ever threw a pitch in Tuesday’s 10-4 interleague win against the Reds at Great American Ball Park.
“It’s not just physical fatigue. It’s mental fatigue, games like that,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before the Yanks (21-9) won their sixth straight game and ended Cincinnati’s five-game winning streak.
So, it helped to have a ready Tanaka, who battled through seven innings and gave up four runs — three earned — while yielding a season-high 10 hits.
Brett Gardner helped to cap the night with a two-run shot, his sixth homer in his last nine games as the Yankees maintained the game’s best record.
The Yanks jumped to a 5-1 lead on Reds right-hander Rookie Davis, who lasted just 4 1/3 innings in his fifth big-league start.
Davis, 24, was among the Yankees minor leaguers sent to Cincinnati in the December 2015 trade that brought Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees.
“We’ve talked throughout the year. I congratulated him for getting up here,” said Aaron Judge, a former minor-league teammate of Davis. “It doesn’t matter if he’s down five runs or up one run, he’s still going to come after you.”
Judge, Starlin Castro and Chris Carter were rested from the Yankees’ starting lineup on Monday, mostly owing to their early arrival.
“It would’ve been fun to face him,” Judge said of his old friend. “But maybe I lucked out.”
Gary Sanchez’s two-run single was followed by a Didi Gregorius RBI single in the first, an inning that began with Davis’s fielding error.
Aaron Hicks’ RBI single made it 4-1 in the second and Gregorius’s fifth-inning sac fly was charged to Davis (1-2), who gave up seven hits and three walks.
In the seventh, reliever Drew Storen hit three Yankees — Hicks (right foot), Sanchez (left elbow) and Chase Headley (right knee) — in a two-run inning that concluded with a Ronald Torreyes RBI single.
The Reds made it 7-4 on Joey Votto’s two-run homer in the seventh off Tanaka (5-1), but homers by Gardner and Matt Holliday in the eighth made for a comfortable finish.
Having just outscored the Giants 31-5 in a three-game home sweep, the Reds (17-15) loaded the bases with none out but Tanaka escaped without allowing a run. Tucker Barnhart tapped into a double play grounder.
Tanaka walked one batter and had six strikeouts, tossing a season-high 112 pitches and providing a break for a weary bullpen; the Yankees were without the use of Chapman, Chasen Shreve, Jonathan Holder and Adam Warren.
“(We just played) a close game where every pitch matters. It’s a mental grind,” Judge said of the 18-inning game. “Now, we’re going to see what team we’ve really got here.”
Manager Joe Girardi noted that the Yankees’ plane landed at 5:08 a.m. on Monday morning (the charter’s pilots were 14 minutes away from timing out, which might have stranded the team) and most of the players turned the lights out by 6:30 a.m.
“You know these games are going to happen and you’re going to have some late nights,” Girardi said. “It happens and you’ve got to deal with it.”
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