It’s been a long time since the Yankees have visited Atlanta: 1,402 regular season games, in fact. Chien-Ming Wang was just a 20-yr old kid pitching for the Staten Island Yankees the last time these two teams met south of the Mason-Dixon line, but now he’s on the mound for the big boys. Wang completed five innings for the first time all season in his last start, and the team will certainly look for him to build on that and pitch into the (gasp!) sixth inning this time around.
Not only will the Yanks have to deal with the uncertainty of a CMW start tonight, they’ll also have to deal with Atlanta’s rather unique closer situation as well. The Braves, you see, have two closers in righty Rafael Soriano and lefty Mike Gonzalez. Depending on the matchups, Bobby Cox will summon either pitcher from the bullpen in either the 8th or 9th innings. Gonzalez leads the club with eight saves, but he’ll be on to face Johnny Damon, Robbie Cano or any of the Yankees’ other lefties whenever they’re due up at the end of the game. Soriano is second on the club with six saves and will face the tough righty swingers whenever Gonzalez isn’t doing his thing. Two relievers, neither one married to a specific inning or the save stat, yet somehow the world hasn’t ended. Amazing.
Here’s tonight’s lineup. They’ll have their hands full with Tommy Hanson, arguably the best righthanded pitching prospect on the planet coming into the year. Something tells me we won’t see Wang take the bat off his shoulders, except for maybe a bunt situation.