The Chicago Cubs saw first-hand last month why they couldn’t afford Masahiro Tanaka.
Things don’t expect to be any easier for them Tuesday night when Tanaka tries to remain undefeated and help the visiting New York Yankees continue their pitching dominance against the Cubs this season.
Though Chicago (15-27) was in serious talks with Tanaka (6-0, 2.17 ERA), it reportedly didn’t come close to landing the Japanese right-hander, who signed a seven-year, $155 million deal with New York. In his third start, Tanaka allowed two hits and struck out 10 in eight innings of a 3-0 win over the Cubs in the first game of a doubleheader April 16.
Chicago is the first team Tanaka will face twice, something Cubs manager Rick Renteria hopes will benefit his team.
"It helps," Renteria told the Cubs’ official website. "Now he’s thrown quite a few games. He’s a guy we definitely have to make sure we get the ball up."
Chicago managed nine hits and struck out 17 times while being outscored 5-0 during the doubleheader sweep last month at Yankee Stadium.
New York (23-20) has not blanked the same opponent in three straight games during the same season since 1972 against the California Angels.
The Cubs, meanwhile, were last shut out in three straight in 1992 by Atlanta.
With Tanaka on the mound, there’s a good chance both can happen again after he tossed a four-hitter during a 4-0 road win over the Mets on Wednesday. The first Yankees rookie to go 6-0 as a starter since Whitey Ford opened 9-0 in 1950, Tanaka is 34-0 in Japan and North America over his last 42 regular-season starts.
"Basically, I’ll just try to carry that on to the next game," he told the team’s website. "It’s not always going to be perfect, but that’s what you’re trying to aim for."
New York has won four in a row and seven of eight versus Chicago. Including the 1932 and ’38 World Series, the Yankees are 7-3 at Wrigley Field, where they haven’t played since 2011.
"We’ll have fun with it and do what we can and try to take care of the Yankees," said Renteria, whose team can match their season high with a third straight win Tuesday.
Alfonso Soriano went 2 for 8 against the Cubs last month and returns to the North Side for the first time since Chicago traded him in July. A Cub for almost seven seasons starting in 2007, Soriano has a career .264 average at Wrigley and hit 87 of his 412 home runs there.
He is 3 for 12 with two doubles and a home run against scheduled Chicago starter Jason Hammel (4-2, 3.06). The right-hander did not allow more than three runs in any of his first seven starts, but gave up five in 5 1-3 innings of Thursday’s 5-3 loss at St. Louis.
Hammel’s other defeat came when he allowed three runs in seven innings versus Tanaka in the Bronx. He’s 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA in his last five regular-season starts against the Yankees after going 1-3 with a 6.06 ERA in his first seven such outings versus New York.
Anthony Rizzo and Junior Lake were the only Cubs to get a hit off Tanaka.
Lake, 2 for 4 during Sunday’s 4-2 win over Milwaukee, is batting .364 (8 for 22) in his last six games.
Rizzo went 3 for 7 with a triple at Yankee Stadium last month.
Brett Gardner, who had two hits while New York’s four-game winning streak ended with a 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh in the nightcap of a doubleheader Sunday, is batting .351 in his last 20 games. He went 5 for 12 with a homer at Wrigley in 2011, but is 1 for 10 with a double versus Hammel.