Chien-Ming Wang allowed three runs in the first inning last night, but quickly adjusted, mixing in more sliders and changeups to hold the Devil Rays to a lone single over the next four innings. Meanwhile, the Yankees chipped away with a run in the third, a Hideki Matsui solo homer in the fourth, and a two-run homer by Bobby Abreu in the fifth to take a 4-3 lead. Wang got into trouble again in the sixth, loading the bases with two outs, but struck out Jonny Gomes to end the inning and his evening. The Yanks tagged on an insurance run in the seventh thanks to some aggressive base running by Johnny Damon, who went from first to third on a single to left and scored on a groundout. That run was crucial, as, after Ron Villone pitched a perfect seventh, Kyle Farnsworth gave up a solo home run to Carlos Pena in the eighth, an inning he escaped only when Jorge Posada gunned out B. J. Upton stealing second. The Yanks got that run back in the top of the ninth, however, again thanks to Damon’s legs as Johnny walked, stole second, and scored on a Bobby Abreu double. Incidentally, speed made the first Yankee run happen as well, as, with the bases loaded and one out in the third, Bobby Abreu (there’s that man again) hit into what looked like a sure inning-ending double play, but burned up the first-base line to beat the pivot throw as Andy Phillips scored from third. Mariano Rivera shut the door in the ninth, nailing down the 6-4 win and picking up his 425th career save, which moved him past John Franco into third place on the all-time saves list. The other big numbers on the night were Abreu’s five RBIs and Chien-Ming Wang’s six strikeouts against no walks in six innings.
Today the Yanks look to wrap up the series by taking three of four, which is exactly what they need to do against teams such as the Devil Rays. The bad news is that Mike Mussina will be working on a whole bunch of rest. The good news is that he only has to be better than 23-year-old Edwin Jackson, who is 1-9 with a 7.23 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP on the season and also hasn’t started since July 4, when he gave up 7 runs in five innings against the Red Sox.