NEW YORK -- Cold, shorter rest, a bigger ball. No matter the challenges, Masahiro Tanaka is making a smooth transition from Japan to the major leagues for one major reason: his split-fingered fastball.
Tanaka allowed two bunt hits in eight dominant innings on a frigid Monday, Carlos Beltran homered for the third straight game and New York welcomed the Chicago Cubs to the current Yankee Stadium with a 3-0 victory in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.
"That split is not something you want to sit on. It's not something you're going to be able to handle," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "But, as it was coming out of the hand, as the guys were coming in, they were saying, `Gosh, it looks like a fastball. It ends up diving."
And it makes batters look silly.
The 25-year-old Japanese right-hander struck out 10 for his second straight start, this time while wearing three-quarter sleeves on a 43-degree day that felt much colder because of a brisk wind. Tanaka (2-0) gave up a replay-aided hit to Junior Lake in the second inning, and Anthony Rizzo pushed a bunt toward a vacated third base with a shifted infield leading off the seventh.
Tanaka has 28 strikeouts in 22 innings, the most strikeouts for a Yankees pitcher in his first three career starts, according to the Yankees via the Elias Sports Bureau.
His 28 strikeouts through his first three major league games are tied for third-most since 1900, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He is also the second pitcher since 1900 to start his MLB career with at least eight K's in each of his first three games, joining the Washington Nationals' Stephen Strasburg (who did it in four straight in 2010).
Tanaka threw 107 pitches, and Shawn Kelley allowed a single to Rizzo as he finished the three-hitter for his fourth save.
"It was cold out there and I did feel it but I was able to control myself, control the grip and manage myself to pitch the way I did today," Tanaka said.
The Cubs have yet to win in the Bronx. They were swept in the 1932 and `38 World Series and lost all three-games in 2005, their only interleague series in New York.
With Tuesday's rainout postponing Jackie Robinson Day festivities, the Yankees planned to unveil a plaque honoring Nelson Mandela before the nightcap. Players from both teams were to wear No. 42, and Michael Pineda was set to make his first start for New York since he was spotted with a mysterious brown substance on his hand Thursday against Boston. Travis Wood was slated to start for Chicago.
After an overnight storm, the grounds crew used blowers to melt the ice on the tarp before removing the covering from the infield. Snow still covered the grass in right field while the Cubs took batting practice, and many players wore ski caps.