Worst. Headline. Ever.
Meanwhile, duck and cover tonight folks. The one team Chien-Ming couldn’t solve last year was the D-Rays, against whom he posted a 6.94 ERA across four starts. Aside from one ugly start against the eventual NL Central Champion Cardinals that lasted a mere four innings, his work against the Rays was by far his worst aggregate performance against any single team in his rookie season. Underlining that fact, the Devil Rays were the only team other than the Cardinals to collect more than a hit per inning off of Wang. Distressingly, they were also the team he faced the most last year, as he didn’t face any other single team as many as three times. Sadly, Wang’s performance thus far this year doesn’t suggest that his fortunes are about to change, though the B-squad line-up the Rays are running out there due to injuries to Huff, Lugo, and Cantu (day-to-day with a bruised foot) could help.
All of that said, there’s something curious about Wang’s four starts thus far this season. One would expect him to do poorly on turf as the groundballs he induces are more likely to speed through the infield for hits. Indeed, it would seem that’s partially to blame for his struggles against the Rays last year (though he did just as poorly against them in the Bronx). But Wang’s one dominant outing this year came on the Metrodome turf. That start also saw his lowest single-game groundball-flyball ratio of the year (1.75 compared to a typical 3.14 in his first two starts combined and a staggering 14.00 in his most recent outing), in combination with his highest strikeout total (eight Ks versus five total in his other three outings combined). Perhaps the solution to Wang’s early-season struggles isn’t getting the ball down, but actually getting away from thinking groundball all the time and making more of an effort to go for the strikeout, even if it means going high in the zone to blow one of his mid-90s heaters past a hitter.
For his part, the hard-throwing McClung has been godawful this year save for one solid, but unimpressive outing against the Royals. The Yanks feasted on him last year and he has a 14.00 ERA in nine career innings against the Bombers, all of which suggests that Wang might have some room to experiment tonight.
Bubba Crosby gets his first start of the year tonight, batting ninth and playing center in place of DH Johnny Damon. Encouragingly, Bernie continues to ride pine. For the Rays, Crawford is expected back tonight, Cantu remains questionable, and Edwin Jackson has already been send down in favor of tomorrow’s starter Mark Hendrickson.