(SportsNetwork.com) - Masahiro Tanaka has made only four starts in his major league career, but the Japanese right-hander is already on a record pace.
Tanaka, who takes the mound for the Yankees Sunday night in the rubber match of a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels, has 35 strikeouts, a new record for a Yankees pitcher through his first four career starts.
The 25-year-old, who was signed to a 7-year, $155 million deal, is coming off a win at Boston on Tuesday when he allowed seven hits and pair of runs in 7 1/3 innings. He's walked just two batters this season, but Tanaka has given up four homers.
Tonight, Tanaka gets the chance to face a team that has been on a power surge. The Angels' Albert Pujols is at the top of the AL lead along with Chicago's Jose Abreu with nine homers.
The more Tanaka sees hitters, the better he performs. Opponents are hitting .314 against him the first time through the lineup and only .149 after that. Additionally, he hasn't lost a regular-season game since Aug. 19, 2012 when the Seibu Lions beat the Rakuten Eagles at the Seibu Dome.
Like Tanaka, Garrett Richards has yet to taste defeat this season. The righty has allowed one run or fewer in three of four starts this year. He's coming off a no-decision at Washington on Monday when he allowed a hit and a run over six innings.
Richards is 0-2 in three games (2 starts) versus the Yankees. He made his major league debut in the Bronx on Aug. 10, 2011.
Yesterday, John Ryan Murphy belted his first major league homer and knocked in three runs to lead the Yankees to a 4-3 victory.
Murphy singled in a pair of runs in his first at-bat and broke a 3-3 tie with his solo shot off Hector Santiago in the fifth. The New York bullpen made the lead stand by blanking the Angels over the final five innings, with Dellin Betances (1-0) beginning the stretch with two scoreless frames to notch his first big league win.
"It was good because Murphy got his first home run and I was able to get my first win," Betances said. "Every time I come in that situation and the team wins, you feel good about yourself."
Brett Gardner also had two hits to help New York bounce back from a 13-1 shellacking by the Halos in Friday's opener of this three-game set.
Mike Trout went 2-for-3 with a solo homer for the Angels, who also received two hits and an RBI from Chris Iannetta. Santiago (0-4) was tagged for four runs while lasting just 4 1/3 innings to remain winless on the season.
"We had some chances," Angels manager Mike Scioscia remarked. "At times we hit some balls hard, at times they made some pitches, but all in all, we didn't come through with guys in scoring position today."
Trout has hit safely in 15 of his 17 career games against the Yankees.
The Yankees won three of four versus the Angels at home last season.