A second chance to make the next impression
By Jon Lane
We’re live from Yankee Stadium on a gray Thursday morning, where later today Chien-Ming Wang will attempt to erase a dreadful beginning to his 2009 season when makes his first start in nearly seven weeks. Since he was activated from the disabled list (hip), which also was a chance for him to hit the reset button, Wang allowed two runs and nine hits in eight innings covering three relief appearances while showing the form that made him a two-time 19-game winner.
One start good or bad won’t define the rest of the season for the right-hander, but you know Wang and the Yankees are hoping for the best even though he’s on a limited pitch count (around 75). It’s going to be very interesting to see how this unfolds.
Back later with much more, including today’s lineups and the status of Mark Teixeira, who sat out last night with a bruised right ankle.
Here are the lineups. It’s just a day off for Derek Jeter with a stretch of 17 games in a row. And Teixeira told Joe Girardi this morning, “I’m good to go,” and later explained that his collision with Elvis Andrus was bone on bone, which is what left him sore for a day.
MLB has suspended A.J. Burnett six games for intentionally throwing a pitch in the head area of Nelson Cruz Monday night. It is expected he will appeal.
Some quick rehab reports:
Jorge Posada is healthy and is also getting the day off. Girardi thought about starting him this afternoon, but when Posada told him he was OK, Girardi replied, “Let’s keep it OK.”
“I just thought it was better to give him a day,” Girardi said. “It’s a quick turnaround.”
Brian Bruney threw from 90 feet Tuesday and felt fine … Xavier Nady had the day off … Jose Molina was expected to return to New York today to receive treatment and will be held off from baseball activity for the next week or two.
About 10 minutes before Wang makes his first pitch. Girardi reiterated this morning how Wang’s sinker over his last few outings has worked like it’s supposed to, going down and not side to side. The bottom line is he deserved a shot at redemption and today will not be a case of one bad start and you’re done.
“He had three really tough starts,” Girardi said. “He won 46 games in 2 ½ years. I’m not sure how many guys can boast that. This is not just a guy we’re trying out. This is a guy we believe in.”
I spoke to a respected member of the Taiwanese media who noted a swagger that’s been missing from Wang since Spring Training. Imagine being in limbo and having to rehab in Tampa while your wife is weeks away from giving birth to your first child? You’d be pretty upset and the vibe is that Wang will channel those energies in a positive way.
Nice start for Wang retiring the Rangers in order on 13 pitches (nine for strikes), including freezing Ian Kinsler on a perfectly located 3-2 pitch. Remember that Wang’s pitch limit is around 75, but Girardi cited the Rangers’ penchant for swinging the bat, which made him hope Wang can work five-six innings anyway.
Mark Teixeira reached on an error when David Murphy dropped a fly ball he initially caught one-handed. Rangers manager Ron Washington argued that the ball was lost on the transfer from glove to throwing hand, but replays indicated Murphy did not secure the ball first.
I was inserting a moral of the story message to Mets rookie Fernando Martinez about the importance of running to first base no matter what, which Teixeira did, until Teixeira got caught between first and second trying to advance on Alex Rodriguez’s fly ball to right. Shortstop Elvis Andrus cut off Nelson Cruz’s throw, chased Teixeira back to first and tagged him out a split second before getting back to the bag.
1-0 Yankees after one on a leadoff home run by Johnny Damon.
Wang’s laboring here in the third. The Rangers took a 2-1 lead on a wild pitch and Hank Blaock’s RBI single.
Chris Davis led off the third with a ground-rule double and Wang nearly esacaped a runner on third, one-out jam before he threw ball four – and a wild pitch – that allowed Davis to score the tying run. Wang had to work – he caught a bad break with Michael Young’s infield hit – his location wasn’t as sharp as the first two innings. He threw 22 pitches, which gives him 45 after three. His last pitch, though, froze Nelson Cruz for strike three.
Wang’s time in this game is rapidly running short. A single and two straight doubles have given the Rangers a 4-1 lead, the last of which drew boos from an impatient crowd. Alfredo Aceves warming up.
He recovers to record three quick outs without further damage. At 60 pitches, expect the fifth inning to be his last.
A-Rod, incidentally, is 2-for-13 in this series and drew loud boos with his groundout to short after Teixeira led off the fourth with a double.
Wang retired the first two Rangers on the fifth on ground balls, throwing only six pitches. He was on his way to a nice finish before Nelson Cruz crushed his worst pitch of the day into the Rangers bullpen (he had not allowed a home run to a right-handed batter in his prior 21 starts.
His final line: 4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 1 WP. Great? No. But Wang isn’t yet fully stretched out to throw 90-100 pitches. It’s a work in progress and not an audition, so you’ll be seeing him in the rotation for some time.
In a blink of an eye, Wang is off the hook. The Yankees load the bases, Nick Swisher draws a run-scoring walk and Mark Teixeira doubles home three to tie the game at five. The number of ways Teixeira is valuable to this team seems to double every game.
Now the fans love A-Rod. He pokes an opposite-field single to plate Teixeira and put the Yankees ahead, 6-5. Lots of layers to this contest, but the most important is Wang laying the foundation to again be an important part of the Yankees’ rotation sooner rather than later.
Ian Kinsler homers off the foul pole to tie the game 6-6. Aceves has definitely looked better in other outings.
Still 6-6 as we enter the eighth. The bullpens have settled things down while Nick Swisher (2-for-3, BB, RBI) is out of the game for defensive purposes. Brett Gardner is in center while Melky Cabrera shifts over to right.
Phil Coke: 1 1/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts and a snatch catch of a line drive. It’s the best he’s looked in awhile. But I like Girardi calling on David Robertson to face the right-handed Elvis Andrus. Robertson needs to be tested in big spots and he did his job, retiring Andrus on a fly ball to left.
Melky … again. Not a walk-off, but he hands a two-run lead to Mariano Rivera in the ninth.