Masahiro Tanaka is making waves in Major League Baseball with his special pitch – the split-fingered fastball.

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Tanaka struck out 10 batters as the New York Yankees blanked the Chicago Cubs 3-0 on April 16 in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.

The 25-year-old pitcher from Japan allowed a pair of bunt singles in eight innings to win his second game.

“That split is not something you want to sit on,” Cubs’ manager Rick Renteria said. “As the guys were coming in, they were saying, ‘Gosh, it looks like a fastball. It ends up diving.’”

The right-hander now has 28 strikeouts in 22 innings. That total ties for the third-most in the first three major league starts by a pitcher since 1900. Stephen Strasburg struck out 32 batters in his first three major league games with Washington in 2010 and J.R. Richard fanned 29 in his first three games in 1971. Karl Spooner had 28 strikeouts in his initial three major league games in 1954-55.

“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.

Tanaka was sharp after allowing five runs in his first two starts combined. He lowered his ERA to 2.05 on Wednesday.

Winless in NY: The Chicago Cubs have never beaten the Yankees in the Bronx. They were swept there in the 1932 and 1938 World Series, and went 0-3 in an interleague series in New York in 2005. The Cubs also lost two exhibition games in New York in 2009.

Lynn on a roll: St. Louis pitcher Lance Lynn became the National League’s first four-game winner in the Cardinals’ 4-3 victory at Washington on Saturday. He allowed one run and five hits in 5 2/3 innings, and hit an RBI double for a 3-0 lead in the second inning.

It was Lynn’s first extra-base hit in 115 career at-bats.

“I was trying to hold it to a single,” Lynn joked. “I don’t like to run.”

Lynn (4-0, 3.42 ERA) started the season a little rocky, giving up 16 hits and eight runs in his first two starts combined, but got the win in each game. He had his best outing in a 4-0 win over Milwaukee on April 14, going seven innings with three hits allowed and 11 strikeouts in the shutout. That game snapped the Brewers’ nine-game win streak.

“He throws the nice breaking ball and he usually keeps the ball down well,” Brewers’ manager Ron Roenicke said. “Every time I’ve seen the guy, he’s tough.”

Harper benched for lacking hustle: Nationals’ star Bryce Harper was benched for the way he ran out a grounder hit back to the mound in the sixth inning on Saturday against the Cardinals.

“Lack of hustle,” Washington manager Matt Williams said. “That’s why he came out of the game. He and I made an agreement, this team made an agreement, that when we play the game, that we hustle at all times.”

Harper, 21, called his benching “part of the game.”

“I respect what he did,” Harper said.

Cueto strong again: Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto started just 11 games last season due to strained muscles near his pitching shoulder. But in his start last week he looked like himself again with a career-high 12 strikeouts in a 4-0 win over Pittsburgh. It was Cueto’s first shutout since 2011.

Cueto, who lost to the Pirates in last season’s playoffs, allowed just three hits and walked none.

“Welcome back, Johnny Cueto,” Reds’ manager Bryan Price said. “He’s been great his first three starts, and he was dominant today.”

StatsWatch: Players with the most RBIs (through Monday’s games) –

  • Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins, 26
  • Chris Colabello, Twins, 20
  • Mark Trumbo, Diamondbacks, 19
  • Michael Brantley, Indians, 18
  • Jose Abreu, White Sox, 18
  • Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers, 17
  • Aramis Ramirez, Brewers, 16
  • Ryan Braun, Brewers, 16
  • Brandon Moss, A’s, 16
  • Raul Ibanez, Angels, 15
  • Casey McGehee, Marlins, 15
  • Justin Morneau, Rockies, 15
  • David Murphy, Indians, 15

Diamond Notes: Pittsburgh’s Ike Davis became the first player to hit grand slams for different teams in the same April when he hit a grand slam on Tuesday night in the Pirates 6-5 win over Cincinnati. He also hit a grand slam on April 5 with the New York Mets, also against the Reds. Davis was traded to the Pirates on April 18…Before the Cubs-Yankees game on April 16, the Yankees honored Nelson Mandela by unveiling a plaque that will go next to the ones honoring Yankee greats in Monument Park. Mandela visited the old Yankee Stadium in 1990, on his first trip outside of Africa since being released from prison…Boston manager John Farrell has been fined for criticizing Major League Baseball’s new instant replay system…Rays’ right-hander Matt Moore is the 13th major league pitcher to have Tommy John surgery since the start of spring training. He suffered a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, ending his season. Moore went 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA last season. He was 0-2 this season.

Copyright © 2014  Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

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