AP Sports Writer
POSTED: 8:42 p.m. HST, May 20, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 8:45 p.m. HST, May 20, 2014
CHICAGO » The Chicago Cubs were an unlikely team to snap Masahiro Tanaka's unbeaten streak with the worst record in the majors coming into the game.
This time, the long shot prevailed.
Tanaka had his regular-season unbeaten run snapped at 42 starts, allowing a season-high four runs in six innings, and Chicago beat the New York Yankees 6-1 on Tuesday night.
The Cubs honored the retiring Derek Jeter before the game, then handed Tanaka his first loss in nine major league starts.
"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.
That was enough for Hammel, who allowed one run and four hits in 5 2-3 innings while striking out six and walking one.
The righty took a hard one-hopper to his pitching hand while deflecting Brett Gardner's single to start the game, then threw his first warmup to the backstop after that. He also hit a batter and threw a wild pitch in the inning but settled down after despite some mounting soreness.
"Adrenalin was able to carry me through," Hammel said. "The first warmup pitch after that scared me a little bit."
He said the soreness and stiffness gradually mounted, but he was able to keep the keep the Yankees in check on a night when so much attention centered on Tanaka not to mention Jeter and the returning Alfonso Soriano.
The Cubs saluted Jeter before the game, with Castro presenting him a number 2 from the famed Wrigley Field scoreboard at home plate as the crowd cheered. And there was a loud ovation when the Yankees' captain batted in the first.
Soriano also got a warm welcome in his first game at Wrigley Field since the Cubs traded him to New York last July. He was 0 for 4.
NOTES: Asked if there's any chance he'll play after this season, Soriano said, "Yeah, I feel good." He plans to keep playing if he feels this way at the end of the season. He's in the final year of an eight-year deal he signed with Chicago before the 2007 season. ... Cubs manager Rick Renteria said OF Justin Ruggiano is close to returning from a strained left hamstring but didn't give a specific date. He also said reliever Pedro Strop is "coming along" as he recovers from a strained left groin.