Masahiro Tanaka tasted something on Tuesday night that's been foreign to him for nearly two years: defeat.
Cubs beat Yankees, 6-1. Masahiro Tanaka loses first decision since August 19, 2012 in Japan vs Saitama Seibu Lions. pic.twitter.com/OGx5IdST5i— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 21, 2014
According to ESPN Stats and Info, that streak spanned 34 regular-season starts:
Masahiro Tanaka loses an MLB game for 1st time. Combining MLB and Japan, he had won 34 straight regular-season decisions— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 21, 2014
Both CBS Sports' Jon Heyman and MLB Network's Dan Plesac both registered surprise that the Cubs of all teams, who have the worst record in baseball (16-27), were the team to break the streak:
masahiro tanaka has lost. and the cubs are responsible. thats baseball.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) May 21, 2014
Coming into the major leagues, Tanaka posted a peerless 24-0 record over 28 starts in Japan in 2013. He hit the ground running in New York, starting out 6-0 with a 2.18 earned run average. Entering Tuesday's game, his 66 strikeouts were also good enough for eighth in MLB.
On Tuesday night, though, Tanaka had the worst start of his brief major league career. He pitched six innings, giving up four runs, three of which were earned, on eight hits. Getting little run support from his offense didn't help matters, either.
After the game, he said, through an interpreter, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
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.
Baseball Prospectus' Matt Sussman facetiously pointed out that had Tanaka had signed with the Cubs, he couldn't have pitched against them and thus wouldn't have taken a blemish to his record:
Tanaka never would have lost to the Cubs if he signed with the Cubs— Matt Sussman (@suss2hyphens) May 21, 2014
More likely, though, Tanaka's first loss was only a matter of time. He couldn't keep up his blistering pace for much longer.
The 25-year-old has set the standard for this year's crop of rookies and looked to be worth every penny of the $155 million the Yankees invested in him in the offseason.
Panicking over one loss is never advisable in baseball, even if it comes against the Cubs. Tanaka should be right back to his best when New York takes on the Chicago White Sox on May 25.
The Yankees will certainly need that as they try and get to the top of the American League East standings.