Chien-Ming Wang’s new grooveBy
As wind, lightening and rain shook the New York area shortly before 10 p.m. on Tuesday, 3000 miles away, the Yankees and the A’s prepared to battle. The Yanks came out of the gate strong, scoring two runs in the top of the first to spot their recently-struggling ace to a 2-0 lead before Chien-Ming Wang even had to throw a pitch.
The top of the first was a little dicey, and as I sat on my couch watching, I grew a bit concerned. Wang hit the first batter of the game and then recorded three outs in a row, but the outs were of the loud variety. The A’s hit three fly balls off of Wang who was, once again, leaving his pitches up in the zone.
But as the first inning rolled into the second, something clicked, and Wang re-emerged as a dominant starter. Over the next 6.1 innings, until being lifted following just the fifth fly-ball out he would induce all night, Wang turned in one of his ground ball clinics. He recorded 15 outs via the ground ball and commanded four double plays off the bats of the A’s hitters. The sinker-ball specialist had gotten just four double plays over his last seven starts combined.
When the 8th inning rolled around and Wang was at 83 pitches and clinging to a one-run lead, I thought a complete game might be within his reach. Mariano the Great had thrown in three straight games, and Wang was rolling. But Jack Hannahan’s deep fly-out brought Joe Girardi out of the dugout and Jose Veras out of the bullpen. Veras pitched into and out of a bit of trouble, and with Kyle Farnsworth available today, I’m beginning to wonder if Veras is now the Yanks’ 8th inning guy. Following a Melky Cabrera home run — his first since May 4 — Rivera nailed down the save for his fourth appearance in as many days.
All in all, this is exactly the kind of game the Yankees needed. They needed Wang to re-emerge as that front-line starter; they needed to start the Oakland/Houston road trip off right; and they needed to capitalize on a night when Boston and Tampa both lost. So once again the Yanks are one game over .500, and hopefully, they can reach that two-games-over plateau tomorrow.