Masahiro Tanaka’s career with the New York Yankees is off to a good start despite some struggles in the early innings, an issue he hopes to correct Tuesday night in the opener of a two-game series against the visiting Chicago Cubs.
Tanaka is 1-0 with a 3.21 ERA in two starts, but those numbers would be even better if he was able to hold down opponents in the first two innings.
The Yankees (7-6) handed him a two-run lead in Toronto in his major league debut April 4, but he allowed a home run to the first hitter he faced and two more runs in the second inning before settling down to face one batter over the minimum in his final five innings to earn a 7-3 win.
The right-hander took the mound again Wednesday against Baltimore in his first appearance at Yankee Stadium, allowing a three-run homer in the second but three more singles in his last five innings of a 5-4 loss.
"If you look at the first two starts, the beginning of the game, I’m missing my spots and giving up runs," Tanaka, through an interpreter, told MLB’s official website. "I need to make my adjustments, try not to do that. Try to keep the damage to a minimum – or no damage at all – at the beginning of the game."
Tanaka has allowed three runs in each outing, something he did four times in 27 starts for the Rakuten Golden Eagles last season. He’s struck out 18 and walked one over 14 innings.
"I pride myself on not giving in after giving up runs," Tanaka said. "From the time when I was in Japan, I would always think that if I gave up a run, I would think to myself that I’m not going to give up any more runs."
He’ll now be trying to pitch the banged-up Yankees to a season-best third straight win after they beat Boston 3-2 on Sunday night to take three of four in the series.
Derek Jeter was out of the lineup for the second straight day (quadriceps) and Brian Roberts was also sidelined (back) before backup catcher Francisco Cervelli – playing first base because Mark Teixeira is on the disabled list – left with a hamstring strain that will land him on the DL.
Starting catcher Brian McCann then suffered an injury to his right index finger, but X-rays were negative.
Carlos Beltran moved from right field to make his first career appearance at first base after Cervelli left, going 3 for 4 with a homer and two RBIs. He’s 9 for 18 with three home runs, three doubles and five RBIs over the last five games.
Beltran is 2 for 8 against Jason Hammel, who also has pitched well with a new team. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in his first two starts for the Cubs (4-8), and he has plenty of experience against the Yankees.
Hammel went 3-3 with a 5.17 ERA in 17 appearances – 11 starts – while with Tampa Bay and Baltimore.
"They’re a perennial powerhouse and find a way to win, and the organization is committed to their players. That’s how they do it," Hammel said. "That being said, there’s still a way to beat them. I’ve faced them many times and had some success."
Chicago hasn’t had much success in 2014.
”If we keep pushing, at some point, it’s got to turn," first-year manager Rick Renteria said after Chicago lost 6-4 in St. Louis on Sunday to drop the last two in the series.
"I think if we were playing really bad baseball, I’d be concerned. But the reality is, we’re showing a lot of fight and we’re picking each other up."
Jeter, expected to play Tuesday, is 7 for 22 against Hammel.