It took the Chicago Cubs, the team with the worst record in the National League, to beat the New York Yankees 6-1 but especially hand Masahiro Tanaka his first loss in major league baseball, which also ends his unbeaten run of 42 games that stretches back to his career in Japan.
But the Cubs fool everyone with their record. Yes, they’re only 16-27, slightly better than a major-league worst Houston Astros. However, their run differential, usually an excellent indicator of a team’s true quality, is currently a +2, which means that despite the record, seeing them come up with impressive wins even against someone who just might be the best pitcher in the American League so far this year shouldn’t be that surprising.
Tanaka falls to 6-1 as he gave up eight hits and three earned runs in six innings, giving up three doubles during his time on the mound. He did walk just one batter and struck out seven, but a wild pitch and some bad fielding from Mark Teixeira didn’t add up into a pretty picture as the Yankees fell to 23-21, losing the opening game of their two-game series with the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Another interesting angle to this game was watching Jason Hammel putting on quite a performance for the Cubs, a team that was trying to sign Tanaka during the offseason but fell short. Hammel pitched for 5.2 innings, giving up just one run and four hits while striking out six and walking just one, improving to 5-2 with a 2.91 ERA. The 31-year old currently has a 0.90 WHIP and while not being the team’s first choice, he is certainly playing like one.
It was a very good day on the plate for Luis Valbuena with two doubles and 3-of-4 at the plate. He saw only four pitches on his four at bats, feeling hot and focused. He didn’t get any RBIs, but did get to score two runs thanks to a Mike Olt single and Olt getting walked in the 7th with the bases loaded. Olt himself finished with 3 RBIs despite going just 1-of-2, improving his terrible batting average to .183.
I think I was able to get the streak going because I had support from my teammates. I’m a little bit disappointed because I think a lot of the fans were looking for me to keep on winning. Next time out, I’ll try to get a win again and get it going again.
Tanaka couldn’t go on winning forever, as good as he has been this season, which is probably right up there with the best in the majors. The Yankees hit only 6-of-32 at the plate, with Ellsbury, McCann, Soriano, Roberts and Tanaka himself going hitless. The Cubs got multiple hit games from Emilio Bonifacio and John Baker, going 3-of-12 with runners in scoring positions and hitting 11-for-32 as a team.