New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka has been perfect so far in his first big league season, and he'll take aim at another win Tuesday night when the Yankees visit Wrigley Field for the opener of a brief two-game interleague set with the Chicago Cubs.
Tanaka, who signed a seven-year, $155 million deal to play in New York, is the first Yankee starter to go 6-0 as a rookie since Whitey Ford began the 1950 season 9-0.
Tanaka already faced the Cubs back in his third start on April 16, as he allowed two hits and struck out 10 over eight innings of a 3-0 win. Most recently, he threw a four-hit shutout against the Mets last week, striking out eight and walking nobody. He has racked up 66 strikeouts and only seven walks so far this season.
"I felt that I had a pretty good game last time," Tanaka said through his interpreter. "Basically, I'll just try to carry that on to the next game. We're facing a different team and we're going to be facing different batters. I'm just going to try to focus on getting outs again.
"It's not always going to be perfect, but that's what you're trying to aim for."
Dating back to his time in Nippon Professional Baseball, the Japanese hurler is unbeaten in his past 42 regular-season starts, going 34-0 since Aug. 19, 2012.
The Yankees certainly hope the right-hander can continue his dominance with fellow starter C.C. Sabathia out until at least July with knee issues.
For Chicago, Jason Hammel takes the hill in search of his fifth win. Hammel took the loss against St. Louis last week at Busch Stadium, as he gave up five earned runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings. It marked his season-high in runs allowed after yielding three or fewer in each of his first seven starts.
Chicago has been idle since Sunday's series-clinching, 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Travis Wood went seven innings and gave up only a two-run homer to Rickie Weeks in the fifth, while Welington Castillo and Mike Olt both homered for the Cubs.
Chicago is the first team to get a second look at Tanaka this season, which Cubs manager Rick Renteria hopes will benefit his offense.
"It helps," Renteria said. "Now he's thrown quite a few games, and you have an idea that he loves his split. He's a guy we definitely have to make sure we get the ball up... We'll have fun with it and do what we can and try to take care of the Yankees"
The Yankees, who have won four of five and lead the AL East by a half game, are coming off Sunday's doubleheader split with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
New York claimed a 4-3 victory in the first game as Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann both delivered RBI singles as part of a three-run first inning. Hiroki Kuroda gave up three runs in six innings while striking out seven to earn the win. In the nightcap, the Pirates rallied late for a 5-3 victory.
New York swept a doubleheader against the Cubs in the Bronx on Apr. 16. Chicago failed to score a run in the two-game set.