Masahiro Tanaka will look to continue his perfect start to the 2014 season -- and his Major League career -- at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night as the Yankees open a two-game series with the Cubs. New York swept the two-game set the teams played earlier this season in the Bronx, a doubleheader on Apr. 16.
Tanaka improved to 6-0 with his first shutout on May 14 against the Mets, allowing four hits while walking none and striking out eight.
But despite his overpowering dominance so far, Tanaka said on Sunday that he's not getting ahead of himself.
"I felt that I had a pretty good game last time," Tanaka said through interpreter Shingo Horie. "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."
Tanaka hasn't been perfect, but he's come close. The right-hander has posted a 2.17 ERA and a league-leading 0.91 WHIP, with 66 strikeouts to just seven walks in 58 innings pitched. He started Game 1of the Apr. 16 twin-bill against Chicago, and tossed eight shutout innings while fanning 10.
The Cubs will draw a tall order in facing Tanaka again, but will have a solid right-hander of their own to counter with in Jason Hammel. Hammel, like Tanaka, has kept runners off the basepaths at an extraordinary rate so far in 2014, boasting the third-best WHIP (0.91) in the National League.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria said it helps that his club has had to face Tanaka once before earlier in the year.
"It helps," Renteria said Sunday. "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."
But no matter who's pitching, Renteria said excitement abounds whenever the Yankees and Cubs meet on the same diamond.
"I think the fans will always be excited about the Cubs and Yankees playing," Renteria said. "I think the players are excited about the Cubs and Yankees playing. I'm excited about the Cubs and Yankees playing. We'll have fun with it and do what we can and try to take care of the Yankees."
Yankees: Betances finding comfort zone in bullpen
Though a starter throughout his Minor League career, right-hander Dellin Betances has found success since being converted into a reliever upon being promoted to the big leagues by the Yankees.
In 17 relief appearances for New York this season, the 26-year-old has posted a 1.85 ERA and struck out 42 while walking just nine. He's fanned nine of his last 13 batters faced.
"I'm learning from the guys down there," Betances said of his time in the bullpen. "I've done it for a year now, since last year, and it feels good. It's just different. You have to go out and be aggressive in the strike zone."
Betances said his velocity has been consistently higher since becoming a reliever.
"You only have to go out there for one or two innings, and you're not going to face the lineup more than one time," he said. "You've just got to go out there and give it your all."
Cubs: Welcome back Soriano
When Starlin Castro was called up to the big leagues, Alfonso Soriano took the rookie under his wing, and let him stay at the veteran outfielder's home in Chicago.
"He's kind of my father," Castro said of Soriano. "That's the guy, when I came here my rookie year, he helped me a lot. We're not together any more, but we talk a lot. He treated me like his son."
Soriano was traded to the Yankees last July, and the two were reunited in April when the Cubs played a two-game Interleague series at Yankee Stadium. Castro was eager to see Soriano again Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
"He'll be in the Hall of Fame someday," Castro said of Soriano.
Castro is on a hot streak of his own. On Sunday, he recorded his second multi-double game of the season, and was batting .329 (28-for-85) with nine doubles, four homers and 13 RBIs in 21 games since moving into the No. 4 spot in the lineup.
"He's hitting the ball well now, and we talk about it all the time, how there's peaks and valleys," Renteria said. "Right now, he's getting into a little rise. He's hitting the ball to right-center field, and when his approach is to right center, he seems to have a lot of success. He's having some fun out there and he looks good."
During the Yankees' brief visit, the Cubs will celebrate retiring shortstop Derek Jeter in a brief pregame ceremony Tuesday. For rookie Mike Olt, who grew up in Connecticut, just playing the Yankees is a celebration.
"It brings back a lot of childhood memories," Olt said. "I used to go there all the time, used to watch Derek Jeter as much as I could. It is a surreal experience to play them. It's fun to be out there and know I've waited my whole life to play against these guys and it finally happened."
• This will be the third series at Wrigley Field between the Yankees and Cubs since the 1938 World Series. The two previous series were from June 6-8, 2003 and June 17-19, 2011.
• In those two games against the Yankees in April, the Cubs hit .148 (9-for-61) with one extra-base hit. They struck out 17 times.
• Olt leads the Cubs and all National League rookies with nine home runs, and is the first Cubs rookie to hit that many before June 1 since Geovany Soto did so in 2008. Soto won the NL Rookie of the Year award that season.
• Chicago's Hector Rondon is 5-for-5 in save opportunities, and boasts a 1.33 ERA.
• Luis Valbuena has hit safely in his last four games, going 7-for-15 with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs in that stretch.
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.