After five years as teammates and five years apart, the reunion between Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma will finally happen when the two Japanese pitchers start against one another on Sunday afternoon in the Bronx.
Iwakuma and Tanaka were teammates in Nippon Professional Baseball as members of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, with the veteran Iwakuma often advising the younger Tanaka on the strategies of the game from 2007-11. Over those five seasons, the two starters combined to log a 2.66 ERA in more than 1,700 innings and struck out nearly 1,500 batters while walking just 381. Their combined efforts were rewarded with an impressive 120-62 record.
The pitchers won't be the only Japanese-born players in the game though, as Mariners outfielder Norichika Aoki is also a veteran of the NPB, where he played from 2004-11 as a member of the Yakult Swallows. With all this representation, as Yankees manager Joe Girardi put it, there will be "a lot of TVs in Japan" on when these two teams play one another.
Things you need to know about this game:
• Tanaka has a strong career track record versus Seattle. In three starts, the right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA and one of his four career complete games. The players who seem to struggle the most against Tanaka bat in the heart of the Mariners' order, as Robinson Cano is 1-for-10 and Nelson Cruz is 0-for-12 with six strikeouts.
• Kyle Seager had the day off on Saturday for the Mariners, with a day game following Friday's night game. But if history is any indication, the Mariners will want him in to face Tanaka, as the left-handed-hitting third baseman is 3-for-10 with two home runs against the Yankees' ace in his career.
• Brian McCann rested early on Saturday, but entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth and stayed in to catch. Girardi said pregame there is no reason for alarm behind the catcher resting. Though McCann is still nursing a sore toe, the rest was because of the turnaround time between games, not the injury, and the catcher is likely to start on Sunday.