Chien-Ming Wang‘s final line from yesterday’s game certainly doesn’t look pretty: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. Yet there were signs of life from the erstwhile ace. Wang, who had not started a game since April 18, looked good in the early going. He kept the sinker low, sometimes to a fault, and pitched a perfect first two innings, using just 23 pitches to retire six Rangers. After that, though, things fell apart.
Chris Davis doubled to lead off the third, but Wang recovered nicely. After Taylor Teagarden sacrificed — to get to the #9 hitter — the Yankees moved the infield in. This might seem strange in the third inning of a 1-0 game, but with Wang on the mound, it was a good call. In textbook manner, Elvis Andrus bounced one to third, holding Davis in place. The Yankees were set up to escape the inning without damage, but Wang uncorked ball four to the next hitter, Ian Kinsler, allowing Davis to score. A Michael Young infield single followed by a Hank Blalock single gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
Even at that point, Wang wasn’t doing too badly. He used 22 pitches to get through the third, almost as many as it took him to get through the first two innings combined. Perhaps he tired after that, because the fourth inning started off about as bad as can be. Single, double, double, plating two runs. Wang did come back to get three straight outs, including a strikeout and two groundouts, and then recorded the first two outs of the fifth on six pitches, but Nelson Cruz ended the consecutive-out streak with a homer into the Rangers bullpen. All of a sudden, the score was 5-1 Rangers.
Obviously, Wang wasn’t at his best. His sinker was up at times — the homer to Cruz was of the belt-high variety. That it came in the fifth inning, on Wang’s 69th pitch, could signal a fatigue issue. After all, Wang hasn’t been accustomed to throwing a starter’s share of pitches this season. Even in his final AAA start he threw just 75 pitches. That came on May 17. We’ll know more after his next start, but unfortunately that comes up at Fenway. It would be a shame for Wang to get lit up at Fenway, where he has a 5.11 career ERA. Still, it doesn’t appear that the Yankees will remove him from the rotation after one mediocre start.
Thankfully, the Yankees were able to bounce back. Al Aceves replaced Wang and ran into some trouble, walking the first two batters he faced, but escaped the fifth without allowing a run. That’s when the offense went nuts.
No one likes to see Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Pena leading off an inning, but the two bench players came through with consecutive singles. Good teams do not waste these opportunities. The Yankees got a new life with the top of the order coming up with two men on base and none out, and they took full advantage of it. After Johnny Damon walked to load the bases Nick Swisher did the same, scoring Cervelli. Then Mark Teixeira, the Yankees savior in May, poked a double down the third base line, emptying the bases and tying the game. That was it for starter Brandon McCarthy.
In yesterday’s game recap I chastised Yankees fans who boo Alex Rodriguez. Yes, fans have the right to boo, but we have the right to do plenty of things that make us look like jackasses. It doesn’t mean we have to do them, even if our impulses and emotions push us in that direction. Yanks fans again booed A-Rod after he grounded out to short after a Teixeira double in the fourth. Of course, when he drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth he heard cheers. Here’s an idea: If you’re going to boo A-Rod, have the common decency to not cheer him when he helps the team.
After walking the two batters in the fifth, Aceves made just one mistake the rest of the way, serving up Ian Kinsler’s homer on a silver platter. That ball was demolished, but it was just one run. Unfortunately, that tied the game. The Yankees would have to find a bit more offense to take this series.
Robinson Cano walked on five pitches to open the eighth, but Hideki Matsui followed that with a fly out to center. With the 7-8-9 guys the Yankees had some moves to make. With Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter on the bench, Girardi could easily pinch hit for Cervelli and Pena. The only thing standing in his way: Melky Cabrera. We’ve seen the Melk Man ground into his share of double plays, and that was certainly a worry in the first two pitches of the at bat. But when C.J. Wilson delivered the fourth, Yankees fans threw their hands in the air. Melky had hit one just beyond the left field wall, giving the Yankees an 8-6 lead and keeping Jeter and Posada on the bench. Mo would come in and do his thing, securing the series win.
Boston won too, so it’s still a tie atop the AL East. But because Texas lost, the Yankees and the Red Sox are now co-holders of the best record in the AL. The Yanks will have a chance to get even next week in Fenway. Until then, it’ll be the Rays in town for four. David Price on the mound tomorrow night against CC. This is one game I’m really glad I’ve got tickets for.