Tanaka, Iwakuma duel in the Bronx; Maeda starts for Dodgers
By Austin Laymance
The weekend wraps up today with a full schedule of games across the Major Leagues, headlined by a historic meeting at Yankee Stadium.
When the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka and the Mariners' Hisashi Iwakuma take the mound this afternoon in the finale of a three-game series, it will mark the first time in big league history that a starting pitching matchup features a pair of former Japanese teammates.
Tanaka and Iwakuma spent five seasons together with Japan's Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, before Iwakuma signed with the Mariners in 2012. The Yankees added Tanaka to their rotation before the '14 season.
Beginning with a closer look at the historic matchup in the Bronx, here's what to watch for throughout the day (all times ET):
Seattle goes for sweep: SEA@NYY, 1:05 p.m.
After five years as teammates in Japan and another five years apart, the reunion between Tanaka and Iwakuma is finally upon us. While Tanaka said he looked up to Iwakuma when they played together, Iwakuma doesn't want to get too caught up in the peripherals heading into today's start.
"I look at it as another game," Iwakuma said through an interpreter. "I'm not here in the Majors to face Tanaka. He's just another pitcher. I know we have a relationship, but I don't want to go deep into emotions thinking about it."
Iwakuma has a point. The Mariners are trying to win a ball game and sweep the Yankees on the road.
Meanwhile, Tanaka will be looking for continued success against Seattle. In three career starts against the Mariners, he's 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA and one of his four career complete games.
Stat that matters: The Mariners have won eight of their last 10 games at Yankee Stadium, dating back to 2013.
Kluber, Matz duel: NYM@CLE, 1:10 p.m.
The Mets turn to Steven Matz in the rubber match of a three-game set against the Indians at Progressive Field, as New York looks to win its first series of the year. Matz will start on regular rest for the first time this season. In his season debut last week against the Marlins, the left-hander recorded only five outs, charged with seven runs on six hits.
The Indians hand the ball to Corey Kluber, who is looking for his first win in three tries. A former American League Cy Young Award winner, Kluber is 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA this year. He pitched well enough to win his last start, though, limiting the Rays to three runs over 7 2/3 innings. The Indians have given Kluber just three total runs of support in his two starts.
Stat that matters: The Indians offense has combined for 38 hits over the club's past three games, accounting for just over 48 percent of Cleveland's 78 hits overall in 2016.
How the West was won: SF@LAD, 8:05 p.m.
Another Japanese starting pitcher, Kenta Maeda, takes the mound tonight as the Dodgers host the division-rival Giants on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball in a matchup of NL West contenders. Maeda has been a success so far in his first month with the Dodgers, tossing six shutout innings in each of his two starts. Maeda is one of only three Dodgers pitchers to begin his career with two scoreless starts, joining Kazuhisa Ishii (2002) and Karl Spooner (1954).
The Giants will counter with Jeff Samardzija, who will make his third start of the year. Samardzija, who signed with San Francisco in the offseason, earned his first victory with the Giants his last time out, pitching eight innings of two-run ball to beat the Rockies at Coors Field. In four career appearances (two starts) against the Dodgers, Samardzija is 1-2 with a 4.91 ERA. He has not faced the Dodgers since Aug. 3, 2013.
Stat that matters: Maeda's streak of 12 consecutive scoreless innings to begin his career is the fourth longest in Los Angeles Dodgers history, trailing only Dave Stewart (18 1/3 innings from 1978-81), Bob Welch (15 1/3 innings in '78) and Pedro Astacio (14 innings in '92).
Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.