5/20 Cubs 6, Yankees 1
On Tuesday night, the Cubs became the first team to face Masahiro Tanaka twice in the big leagues. They also are the first to beat the Yankees’ pitcher in 43 regular-season starts between the U.S. and Japan. Rookie Mike Olt drove in three runs, and Emilio Bonifacio and Starlin Castro each added RBI singles to lift the Cubs to a 6-1 Interleague victory over the Yankees and hand Tanaka his first regular-season loss since Aug. 19, 2012.
“We really executed,” Cubs catcher John Baker said. “Me and [Jason] Hammel were joking that Floyd Mayweather may lose now. We beat the Mayweather of baseball today.”
Mayweather, in case you don’t know, is a professional boxer who is unbeaten in 46 fights.
When Chicago faced Tanaka on April 16 at Yankee Stadium, he struck out 10 over eight shutout innings. What were the Cubs looking for this time?
“That split,” manager Rick Renteria said prior to the game Tuesday. “[Hitters] see it as a fastball, and it ends up dropping off the table. Obviously, he’s been a championship pitcher in Japan. There’s no surprise that he has the poise, and obviously, his stuff is really good.”
What the Cubs wanted was to get Tanaka to throw up in the zone.
“That split comes in at the knee or above the knee, lower thigh, and it looks like a really good pitch,” Renteria said. “You have to make him get the ball up. He’s a guy you have to try to force to see if you can make him throw a lot of pitches.”
It worked. Tanaka had gone 42 consecutive starts without a regular-season loss, and this was his first defeat since he was pitching for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. The four runs off the right-hander were the most he’s given up this season.
“We watched a lot of video,” Baker said, “and saw him striking out a lot of the best hitters in baseball and making people look foolish, and a lot of us here already had that experience, swinging and laughing and looking in the dugout, like ‘What the heck was that pitch?'”
Tanaka didn’t think the Cubs had an edge.
“I don’t look at it that way,” he said. “I think all my pitches, they went to locations which were easy for the batters to hit.”
Hammel survived a liner off his right hand in the first inning, and is now 3-0 with a 2.81 ERA in four starts at Wrigley Field.
– Carrie Muskat