ARLINGTON, TEXAS – Texas Rangers hurler Yu Darvish and New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka are approaching their upcoming showdown with contrasting states of mind.
A day before the two starters meet in the opener of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium, Darvish maintained a steely focus while the media-friendly Tanaka was in a more relaxed mood on Thursday.
“I hope we both put on a good pitching performance, but it would be best if we win,” said the 30-year-old Darvish, who is known to be generally cautious around reporters.
While Tanaka could not hide his excitement a day earlier saying he has been waiting for this day for a long time, the ever-so stoic Darvish was in no joking mood.
“He may be looking forward to (our matchup), but to me it’s a game I have to win,” said Darvish, who is 6-5 after losing his last start on June 18 against the Seattle Mariners.
“To me it doesn’t matter who’s the ace or not, and this game won’t be different from any other game.”
Friday will mark the first time in MLB history two Japanese Opening Day starters face off against each other.
Darvish and Tanaka, who were teammates at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2009 World Baseball Classic, have locked horns four times in Japan. But the last time the two right-handers met was in 2011.
In New York, Tanaka said that Darvish, who went to the U.S. two years earlier, is someone who has helped him stay motivated throughout his major league career, with both having made the jump overseas after building successful careers in NPB.
“He’s one of the players who has been a great inspiration,” said Tanaka.
“Of course I have a special feeling about this game. It’s one of the things I have been looking forward to ever since I came here. It feels like the time has finally come.”
As much as he is looking to have some fun, Tanaka, a 28-year-old Hyogo Prefecture native, knows this is serious business as he has been winless in his last seven starts and needs to snap a six-game losing streak which has dropped his record to 5-7.
Tanaka, who has recorded double-digit wins in each of his three seasons with the Yankees, last earned a win on May 8.
“It’ll be important for me to have faith in myself as I throw every pitch,” said Tanaka.
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