Tanaka is good. Very good. Very, very good. VERY, very, very good. He'd been decent enough through his first two major-league starts and allowed the Cubs just two hits in eight innings. The first hit, an infield bunt single by Junior Lake in the second inning, was only a hit because manager Rick(y) Renteria decided to challenge the close "out" call at first base. Replays conclusively showed Lake's foot touching first base before the ball settled into first baseman Kelly Johnson's glove, thus safe. In that manner, the Cubs' no-no-hit streak was extended to 7,676 games.
Tanaka was mostly unhittable after that. Anthony Rizzo also bunted his way on in the seventh, pushing a nice one down the third-base line to help defeat the shift. I'd like to see more of that; if Rizzo can do that from time to time, perhaps teams would spread out the shift against him. Tanaka issued one walk, to Justin Ruggiano in the first inning, and struck out 10. His control was impeccable -- 76 strikes in 107 pitches. The 10 Ks gave him 28 in his first three starts, which is a record for a Yankees pitcher.
Shawn Kelley dispatched the Cubs fairly easily in the ninth, allowing a single by Rizzo, for his fourth save.
Masahiro Tanaka would have cost Theo & Co. a lot of money. The Cubs might have had to give an opt-out clause like the Yankees did. But it's clear to me -- and yes, three starts is a small sample size -- that he really is worth the money. Next time management goes after someone like Tanaka ... they really have to actually get him.
Jason Hammel didn't pitch too badly; the solo home run allowed to Carlos Beltran (the fourth homer Hammel has allowed this year, all with no one on base) was the worst of his sins. The Yankees scored their third run on a weird occurrence, when Cubs catcher John Baker was called for catcher interference on what would have been a comebacker groundout. Normally, if that happens the batter is given first base but the ball is dead and runners have to hold. Instead, Yankees manager Joe Girardi was given the option of taking the play without the interference, which would score a run, which is what happened.
The Cubs again kept the game reasonably close -- the seventh loss (of the nine that show in the standings) of a deficit of three runs or fewer, and Hammel posted a quality start, so the actual standings tally so far this year should read:
Moral victories: 7 Actual victories: 4 Blowout losses: 2
At least it was done fairly quickly, two hours and 41 minutes, leaving more than three hours in between games. If the Cubs wanted to have some tourist fun on their quick NYC visit, that might even be enough time to take the subway to the Empire State Building for a tour and get back before the nightcap begins at 6:05 p.m. CT.
That's when the Cubs will try for another
moral actual victory (they have yet to have one in any edifice named "Yankee Stadium"). Travis Wood takes the mound against Michael Pineda. A game preview thread will post at 4:30 p.m. CT.