While Mets top prospect Rafael Montero doesn't have nearly the same pedigree, the club is hoping he can provide a similar impact.
Tanaka will oppose Montero, who is set to make his big league debut as the Subway Series shifts to Citi Field on Wednesday night.
After going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013, Tanaka (5-0, 2.57 ERA) has baffled big league hitters with his nasty arsenal of pitches. The right-hander has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his first seven starts, and his 8.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the third-best mark in baseball.
Tanaka was at it again Friday, yielding two runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 5-3 victory at Milwaukee.
"That's how he's been pitching. He's pitched like that pretty much every time out," Derek Jeter said. "Milwaukee's a good team. They've been playing extremely well so far this year, but he mixes his pitches up and he's a handful to deal with."
Tanaka struck out seven and walked one, throwing 71 of his 108 pitches for strikes.
"You can't see any rotation, and that's what makes him good," Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez said of Tanaka's splitter. "You can't really pick it up. You think it's a fastball, and you have to respect his fastball because it's 92, 93 (mph). ... What I saw tonight, he's going to be good for a while."
Tanaka will get his first look at the crosstown Mets (19-19), who are eager to see what they have in Montero. The 23-year-old right-hander went 4-1 with a 3.67 ERA while striking out 41 over eight starts spanning 41 2-3 innings at Triple-A Las Vegas.
"We understand that it's a debut on a big stage. We think he's ready now," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "We think from a mental standpoint, he's well able to handle it. The basic question that we ask ourselves is, what gives us the best chance to win?"
The future appears to be now for the Mets, who also recalled highly-touted Jacob deGrom on Tuesday.
"I just told those two kids in the room: There's a reason why you're here - because you can play here. That's why you've been chosen," manager Terry Collins said. "So don't think you've got to do anything more than what got you here."
The Mets (19-19) return home seeking a season-best fourth straight win after sweeping a two-game set at Yankee Stadium. Curtis Granderson went a combined 4 for 8 against his former team, belting a two-run homer in Monday's 9-7 victory and a three-run shot in Tuesday's 12-7 win.
"It's nice to come here and feel good about yourself offensively, scoring some runs, hitting some homers," captain David Wright said. "Hopefully that translates and gives us some momentum going back home."
The Mets are 6-0 against the Yankees since the start of last season, outscoring them 37-21 during the second-longest winning streak between these teams. The Yankees put together seven straight victories in the series spanning the 2002 and '03 seasons.
The Yankees (19-19) have surrendered 32 runs during a season-worst four-game skid.
"We've got to start playing better and pitching better and doing everything more consistently. We've got to go out and win a game tomorrow," manager Joe Girardi said. "A lot of times that changes the mood."
Yankees third baseman Yangervis Solarte is 14 for 28 with two homers and nine RBIs during an eight-game hitting streak.
Wright has hit safely in 11 straight, going 20 for 51 (.392) with eight extra-base hits and 10 RBIs. He's batting .364 with two homers and eight RBIs in his last 11 against the Yankees.