This time, the long shot prevailed.
“Everybody was aggressive,” Chicago’s Luis Valbuena said
It was a surprising turn, considering Chicago’s struggles and the dominance of the rookie from Japan.
Tanaka (6-1) had been 34-0 in Japan and North America the last two seasons. He did drop Game 6 of the Japan Series last year before earning the save in Game 7. But postseason aside, he hadn’t lost since the Seibu Lions beat the Rakuten Golden Eagles on Aug. 19, 2012. And yes, he was definitely proud of that streak.
“I think I was able to get the streak going because I had support from my teammates,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “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.”
Valbuena had three hits with two doubles and scored two runs for Chicago. John Baker had two hits, scored a run and drove in one.
Mike Olt drove in three. Jason Hammel (5-2) pitched solid ball into the sixth and Hector Rondon retired Jeter on a grounder with the bases loaded in the ninth, preserving the win on a hot and rainy night with thunder and lightning.
Tanaka had his worst outing, allowing eight hits to match a career high. He struck out seven and walked one but didn’t really have his usual command.
Manager Joe Girardi noticed some splitters up in the zone. Tanaka said there were issues with all his pitches, and Chicago’s Starlin Castro thought there was a dip in velocity from last month’s meeting in New York, when he threw eight scoreless innings.
Some Cubs players thought familiarity this time around helped, although Girardi dismissed that idea.
“If he has his good splitter tonight I think he gives a much better performance,” he said. “Since it’s the first time that he saw a team twice and they scored four runs, people are probably going to make a big deal out of it, but I think he’s given up four runs before in a start. So I wouldn’t make too much of it.”
Coming off his first major-league shutout against the Mets last week, Tanaka gave up RBI singles to Emilio Bonifacio in the third and to Olt in the fourth to make it 2-0. The Cubs added to their lead with two in the sixth on back-to-back sacrifice flies by Olt and Baker after Mark Teixeira singled in a run in the top half for New York.