Masahiro Tanaka is about to get his first taste of batting in the big leagues.
Hitters have had to get to him early the way he's pitched in his first major league season.
The New York Yankees starter will try to improve to 5-0 as he squares off with Milwaukee Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo in Friday night's opener of a three-game series at Miller Park.
Tanaka (4-0, 2.53 ERA) went 3 for 37 with four sacrifices at the plate during his seven-year career in Japan. His bat, of course, isn't why he came over to New York (18-15) as he looks to improve to 33-0 in regular-season play since losing to Seibu on Aug. 19, 2012.
The right-hander has generally gotten stronger after some early jitters. He is allowing hitters to bat .314 against him the first time through the lineup before that figure goes down to .173 over the rest of the game.
That was the pattern for Tanaka on Saturday when he gave up two runs in the first two innings before allowing one more over his next five to earn a 9-3 victory over Tampa Bay.
"I think I was able to get my rhythm back as I got deeper into the game," Tanaka said through an interpreter.
He served up two homers for the second time in three games - he's allowed seven through six starts - and now faces a Brewers offense which is among the major league leaders with 36.
Tanaka will step into the batter's box against Gallardo (2-1, 2.47), who is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three home starts entering his first career outing against the Yankees.
Gallardo is winless in his last five starts, recording his only decision in that span Saturday as he permitted a season-high four runs in six innings in a 6-2 defeat in Cincinnati.
The right-hander has extensive experience against several New York hitters. Alfonso Soriano is 4 for 25 with 11 strikeouts against Gallardo and Brian McCann is 2 for 15, while Carlos Beltran has fared better at 6 for 21.
Milwaukee (22-13) has lost four of six in interleague play to the Yankees, who lost two of three in their only visit to Miller Park in 2005.
New York will see familiar faces in Brewers slugger Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds, who each spent time last season with the Yankees.
"I got a good taste of that jealousy on the other side," Overbay told the Brewers' official website. "But if we do the things we can do, we can beat anybody."
The Yankees had lost five of six before winning the final two games of a three-game set in Anaheim this week. Derek Jeter entered the series in a 2-for-24 slump but went 5 for 11 and hit his first homer of the year in Wednesday's 9-2 victory.
"It's good to get one," Jeter said. "I'm not catching Babe Ruth or anything, but at least you'd like to get one. The important thing is that we got a win. It was a good game for us in a lot of different ways."
The Brewers fell for the sixth time in eight games Wednesday, 3-2 at home to Arizona. They are without the injured Ryan Braun, and Aramis Ramirez is mired in a 2-for-42 slump.
"I know the lineup's not the same, but we still have enough guys in there that I think we should be scoring some runs," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We'll get it going, we'll figure it out."
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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