Baseball is a funny game sometimes.
The Cubs, owners of the worst record in Major League Baseball entering play Tuesday, became the first team to beat Japanese rookie sensation Masahiro Tanaka in almost two years, pulling off a 6-1 victory in front of 38,753 at Wrigley Field.
Tanaka hadn't lost a regular-season game since Aug. 19, 2012 — a span of 42 starts between Japan and the U.S.
The Cubs also became the first MLB team to face Tanaka twice after the 25-year-old righty tossed eight shutout innings against the Cubs in New York last month.
Tuesday, the Cubs flipped the script, hammering out eight hits. Luis Valbuena, Mike Olt and John Baker - who went a combined 0-for-9 with six strikeouts against Tanaka in the Bronx - did most of the damage with six hits off the Yankees ace at Wrigley Field.
"He's an outstanding pitcher. He threw the ball really well the first time out," Cubs starter Jason Hammel said. "It's something to say for once a team gets to see a guy the second time. They're able to make adjustments."
“To see him twice, it does help," Olt said. "He definitely had some great stuff today, too. We were just able to get a couple mistakes up in the zone and do something with it.”
For his part, Tanaka said he doesn't think facing the Cubs a second time was his downfall, and says he just didn't have a good feel for his pitches all night, even before the rain hit.
"I can't make the weather my excuse," Tanaka said through a translator. "I think it's the first time I've been rained on since I got here [to the U.S.], but that happens. You need to be able to adjust to that."
On the other side, Hammel - who had to wait for Tanaka to sign before reaching a deal with the Cubs - notched his fifth victory by out-pitching the Japanese sensation, allowing just one run on four hits and a walk in 5.2 innings with six strikeouts. Five relievers – Justin Grimm, Brian Schlitter, James Russell, Neil Ramirez and Hector Rondon – shut the Yankees down the rest of the way.
"We've been playing good baseball from the beginning," Hammel said. "We just haven't been able to pull out the one-run games. That's the bottom line. Win-loss record can be a little deceiving sometimes.
"We had a great game against a great team. Mother Nature tried to ruin it for us, but we battled through it. It was a great overall win."