When Chien-Ming Wang went on the DL in April, he had put up some epically bad numbers. He was 0-3 with a 34.50 ERA. He had allowed 23 earned runs on 23 hits and 6 walks in just 6 innings of work, and opponents were hitting .622/.667/1.027.
Since coming back from his injured whatever it was that hurt, he has been better. Unfortunately, “better” is a relative term. In five appearances spanning two starts and three relief stints, Chien-Ming Wang has thrown 15.1 innings, giving up only 11 earned runs on 22 hits and 6 walks. While he’s struck out 12, he has allowed 23 baserunners in those 15.1 innings.
The simple truth is that Chien-Ming Wang as a starting pitcher — now 0-4 in starts with a 25.14 ERA — is not giving the Yankees a chance to win baseball games. He’s not the best man for the job right now, and when his turn in the rotation comes around on Tuesday in New York against the Nationals, he should not be starting.
Tonight, Wang took the loss in a game the Yankees could have won. He lasted just 2.2 innings, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks. The damage could have been worse, and the damage could have been less. But in the end, Wang had nothing on his pitches after the first inning, and the Red Sox just pounded out line drive after line drive against the erstwhile sinker ball specialist.
For Wang, the game actually started off on the right foot. It took him 29 pitches to get through the first, and while he had no control of his sinker, it was sinking. He gave up a few signature ground ball hits and got into trouble when he walked a few Red Sox. He was, however, hitting the mid-90s on the gun and seemed to be throwing with downward movement.
In the second and third, though, nothing. It was all gone. His pitches in the zone were belt high, and his pitches out of the zone weren’t generating any swings. The Red Sox went to town, and while we can’t underestimate the impact of Nick Swisher’s terrible play in the right field corner, Wang did not do his part. He was gone in the middle of the third.
At that point, the bullpen pitched about as well as could be expected. Phil Hughes threw one mistake, and Kevin Youkilis deposited it into the seats. It would end up being the difference in the game. Outside of that pitch, Hughes threw 3.2 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5. If I am giving the ball to someone on Tuesday, it is Phil Hughes.
On the other side of the ball, the Yankees couldn’t get it done. They blasted three home runs, and Mark Teixeira went 4 for 5. However, A-Rod, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano were a combined 0 for 13. The team was just 2 for 15 with runners in scoring position and left ten runners on base. They had the tying run in scoring position in both the 8th and 9th innings but couldn’t push it across. It seemed as though they couldn’t recover from a base running error by Swisher in the 2nd. It was just one of those nights.
After the game, the Yankees were at a loss for words. Joe Girardi said that he saw “bad counts” from Chien-Ming Wang, and with the Wanger throwing hard but with no control or ability, the Yankees are gasping at straws. When Kim Jones asked Jorge Posada what he saw from Wang tonight, he simply repeated, “I don’t know.” That’s how I feel.
Joe Girardi had David Robertson warming up in the first inning and yanked Wang as soon as the game started to slip away. It was too late, and after the game, Girardi wouldn’t commit either way to Wang. “I’m not ready to make that decision right now,” he said.
Yankee fans will spend the next few days debating this one. Mark Feinsand thinks skipping Wang would be the equivalent of throwing in the towel on him, and Marc Carig puts the odds of another Wang start at 50-50. Much like Jorge, I just don’t know.
Game Notes: The Yankees are now 0-7 against the Red Sox and haven’t beaten Boston since Mike Mussina notched his 20th win in September. If it’s any consolation, the Yankees are 34-18 against everyone else while Boston is just 28-24 against everyone else. There’s a double-edged sword here. When the Yanks’ luck changes, they could really pull away from the pack, but if the Yankees had managed to go just 3-4, they would have a comfortable lead over the Sox. Them’s the breaks.