When I got home tonight, one of my closest friends, who happens to be a Worcester native and Red Sox fan, offered me the typical Red Sox fan excuse to tonight’s game. “I don’t think he pitched well tonight as crazy as that sounds,” he said about Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang. “10 GBs. 14 Flies. I saw a LOT of line drives that were caught, yes, but a lot of ‘em.”
It’s true; for someone looking at Chien-Ming Wang in a vacuum, tonight’s outing was not particularly “good” in the traditional 20-ground-ball outs sense of the meaning. That Wang recorded more outs in the air than on the ground is a notable rarity. In fact, outside of last year’s disastrous ALDS, tonight’s game marked the first time since August 18, 2006 that the Wangster recorded more air outs than ground outs.
Interestingly enough, that outing came against the Red Sox during the five-game 2006 Boston Massacre, and it’s not coincidence that Wang pitches differently against the Red Sox. It is, in fact, part of his evolution into the Yankee ace.
Heading into tonight’s game, Wang was just as aware as we were of the Red Sox’s past success against him. He knew that his greatest struggles as a starter in the Big Leagues came against Boston and mostly in Fenway. There’s just something about that park that doesn’t lend itself to his sinkerball. Perhaps it’s the mound; perhaps it’s the Boston hitters’ approach to Wang’s pitching style.
Tonight, though, Wang kept the Sox guessing. He pounded the strike zone, throwing nearly 66 percent of his stingy 93 pitches for strikes. He got the double play when he needed it and the outs all night long. He offered up a better mix of pitches than we’ve seen him throw, and he showed why he is indeed that Yankee ace we all thought the team needed.
Meanwhile, the 6-5 Yanks owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jose Molina, and all that deal took was Jeff Kennard. Who ever knew Kennard would be so useful to the Yanks?