How’s that for an April to remember for Chien-Ming Wang? Wang closed out his opening month in grand style today, throwing 7 innings against the Indians. He limited Cleveland to four hits — three singles and a double — while striking out a season-high nine. With Joba and Mo throwing an inning, the Yanks eked out a 1-0 win behind a Melky Cabrera home run.
For Wang, this start — his sixth of the month — really cemented his status as the Yankee ace. He’ll finish the month leading the AL in wins with five, and he has yet to lose a game this season. His ERA is a nifty 3.23, and his peripherals are great. He has 27 strike outs to 11 walks and has allowed just one home run all year in 39 innings. Opponents, meanwhile, are hitting .235/.292/.315 off the righty.
For Wang, today’s line is a departure from what we’ve come to expect from the sinkerball specialist over the year, but it is a welcome departure. Wang recorded five ground-ball outs and six fly-ball outs today while retiring nine by the K. We’re used to seeing few strike outs, few fly outs and many more ground balls, and as some fans in the game thread wondered, what has changed with Wang this year?
From watching him work, Wang seems to have a better idea how to keep hitters off balance. Last season, when October rolled around and the Yanks trekked out to Cleveland, the Indians hit Wang around because they knew what was coming. They knew he would throw mainly sinkers, and they knew they could him them. This year, Wang is going more to his slider and his splitters. Considering that he throws in the mid-90s, this diverse repertoire of pitches will keep hitters guessing. Wang is, in other words, really maturing as a pitcher.
On the other side of the ball, the Yankee offense continued to scuffle today. This time, however, the opposing pitcher was the AL Cy Young Award winner. C.C. Sabathia, perhaps auditioning for his future employer, threw a lights-out game, matching Chien-Ming Wang nearly inning for inning. He threw 8 innings, also allowing one hit while walking one and striking out eight. It was a vintage pitchers duel, one missing from the ALDS, and the Yanks emerged on top.
- Despite Joe Girardi’s post-game comments, The Times story is true: Jorge will go to the DL, and he will go visit Dr. James Andrews. The Yanks’ erstwhile catcher says he doesn’t need surgery, but I would expect a lot of innings at first and DH for Jorge this year.
- To the Yankees’ center fielder: Who are you and what have you done with Melky Cabrera? The Melkman’s fifth home run — the only run of the game — tied him with Jason Giambi for the team lead in homers. He’s on pace to hit 33 this year. If Melky keeps this up, I will be very happy to admit that I was wrong about his future on the Yanks.