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First Pitch: Tanaka meets the Mets

NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka will make his eighth start of his first season in Major League Baseball on Wednesday, but this one will be a little different than all the rest.

Welcome to the Subway Series, Tanaka-san.

Rafael Montero will be making his major league debut for the Mets at Citi Field. But there's at least as much buzz about Tanaka, if not more, given the way he's pitched thus far for the Yankees.

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka

#19 SP
New York Yankees

2014 STATS

  • GM7
  • W5

  • L0

  • BB7

  • K58

  • ERA2.57

The 25-year-old is 5-0 with a 2.57 ERA -- the first Yankees rookie to begin his career 5-0 as a starter since Hall of Famer Whitey Ford in 1950.

Only four pitchers have more wins this season -- Mark Buehrle (7-1), Adam Wainwright (6-2), Zack Greinke (6-1) and Rick Porcello (6-1). And only seven have more strikeouts -- Tanaka is currently tied for eighth with Cliff Lee, with 58 K's.

Tanaka got his first taste of the Subway Series on Monday, from the dugout, and said Tuesday that it didn't feel that much different than previous Yankees games.

"Nothing too much in particular," Tanaka said, via an interpreter. "Just felt that there were a lot of Mets fans at the stadium as well."

Doesn't sound like the young phenom will be awed by the moment Wednesday. And why should he be? After all, Tanaka pitched in the Japan Series a year ago, leading his team to its first championship. He has also pitched in the World Baseball Classic.

And he has pitched, for quite some time now, under the pressure of preserving his incredibly long unbeaten streak -- Tanaka is now 33-0 in his last 41 regular-season starts, dating all the way back to Aug. 19, 2012.

Speaking of pressure, Tanaka was also asked Tuesday if he feels any added pressure to come through for the Yankees now, given that 3/5 of the team's Opening Day rotation is on the disabled list.

"No pressure," Tanaka said. "Nothing changes what I need to do. I’m just going out there and doing my thing, so no pressure on me."

With that kind of demeanor, maybe this guy is the perfect fit for New York and the Yankees? Maybe he really was worth the $155 million dollars the Yankees agreed to pay him back in January?

You can't argue with the results on the field thus far.

On deck: Tanaka aims to become the first starter in MLB this season to reach 6-0. (The Rockies' Jordan Lyles is also 5-0.)

Montero, from the Dominican Republic, was called up from Triple-A to replace Jenrry Mejia in the Mets' rotation. The 23-year-old was 4-1 with a 3.67 ERA in eight starts for the Las Vegas 51s this season, giving up just 30 hits in 41 2/3 innings, with 41 strikeouts and 18 walks.