NEW YORK — Jason Hammel summed up the helplessness he and many of his Cubs teammates felt Wednesday.
“It’s hard to do much when the other guy was Cy Young,” Hammel said in referring to the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka, who lived up to his ballyhooed status as a seven-year, $155 million pitcher the Cubs pursued heavily before losing out to the traditionally and financially wealthier Yankees.
The Cubs have been shut out four times this season, but this was the first time they have been blanked in a doubleheader since the Cardinals swept them 4-0 and 8-0 on June 27, 1962.
“We’ll continue to evaluate and allow these guys to get into a rhythm if we can,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “Everybody has been getting a lot of at-bats, so it really isn’t for a lack of playing time.”
The only two hits the Cubs forged against Tanaka, who won 28 consecutive games with the Rakuten Eagles in 2012-13, were the bunt singles of Junior Lake and Anthony Rizzo. Lake’s hit came after a replay overruled an out call in the second, and Rizzo took advantage of a defensive shift to bunt down the third-base side.
Justin Ruggiano said Tanaka’s splitter moved in different directions, and Tanaka threw his 93 mph fastball enough to keep hitters honest during a 10-strikeout performance.
“He really didn’t need (the fastball),” Ruggiano said. “We kept swinging at stuff. He was throwing all his pitches for strikes. He has a lot going on.”
Tanaka (2-0) has struck out 28 in his first three starts, and he struck out Mike Olt three times.
But Olt is the least of the Cubs’ offensive concerns. After a record-setting start, leadoff hitter Emilio Bonifacio is hitless in his last 10 at-bats. The Cubs have been limited to three hits or fewer twice.
That left Hammel (2-1) on an island despite limiting the Yankees to five hits in seven innings.
The Yankees’ recruitment of Tanaka included testimonials about the franchise from their Japanese players last summer, as well as the huge contract.
Tanaka told reporters the Yankees gave him the best ”assessment” over other bidders, including the Cubs.
Nate Schierholtz came the closest to not anointing Tanaka as the second coming of Cy Young.
“I’d like to face him again, but he had good stuff,” he said. “He was keeping everything down. He has a lot of different pitches. You couldn’t really count on any certain pitch in a certain count.”
In the second game, Ryan Kalish and Darwin Barney stranded runners in scoring position in the fifth and seventh, and Kalish grounded to short with the tying run at second to end the game. They managed only six hits, two from Starlin Castro.
“It’s a long season,” Travis Wood said after losing the second game. “It’s still early.”