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Keep ‘Em Coming Back

Once again, the hero (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)Chien-Ming Wang looked like his old self over the first couple of innings Thursday afternoon. His sinker was clocking in at 94 miles per hour on the YES gun and showing good drop, and after striking out two men in his perfect first inning, his second frame went groundout, groundout, strikeout.

Things started to flatten out in the third, however, when Chris Davis led off with a ground rule double. The Rangers eeked out two runs in that frame, then added two more in the fourth when Davis again doubled, this time with two on and none out. In the fifth, Nelson Cruz crushed a pitch up in the zone into the visiting bullpen, driving Wang from the game 11 pitches shy of his intended limit of 80. Wang’s final line was 4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 5 K, but that more than halved his season ERA (to 14.46), and 13 of his 14 outs came by strikeout or groundout. Those first two innings were worth building on, and he’ll take his next turn in Boston on Tuesday.

As for the Yankees, Johnny Damon led off the bottom of the first with a home run off Brandon McCarthy, but the Yanks couldn’t get much going for the next few innings while the Rangers were running up the tally on Wang.

After failing to plate a leadoff double by Mark Teixeira in the fourth, the Yankees entered the bottom of the fifth down 5-1 with Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Peña due up. Surprisingly both rookie singled after which McCarthy walked Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher to give the Yankees their second run. Teixeira then hit a cue shot down the third base line that skipped under Michael Young’s glove and rattled around in foul territory near where the stands bend, giving all three runners time to score and tie the game on what looks like a ringing bases-clearing double in the box score. With Teixeira on second and still none out in the inning, Alex Rodriguez silenced the boo birds that had begun to chirp by singling Tex home with the go-ahead run.

Unfortunately, that lead only lasted a few minutes, as Ian Kinsler homered off Alfredo Aceves (and the left field foul pole) in the top of the sixth to tie the game at 6-6. Aceves, Phil Coke, David Robertson, and Texas’s Jason Jennings combined to keep the score there until the bottom of the eighth, when Ron Washington brought in lefty C.J. Wilson. Wilson had been throwing high-90s cheese in his scoreless 1 2/3 innings Wednesday night, but didn’t have the same snap on his pitches less than 24 hours later. Wilson walked Robinson Cano on four pitches to start the eighth, then after getting Hideki Matsui to fly out, floated a changeup to Melky Cabrera.

Melky's bat bends as he sends Wilson's change into the left field box seats (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Melky deposited the pitch in the left field box seats for yet another big late-inning hit, and Mariano Rivera nailed down the 8-6 win in the ninth. The Yankees are now tied with the Red Sox, who also won on Thursday, atop the AL East with the best record in the American League. They’ll be in Boston next week, with Wang opening the series.

As for Melky, the home run was just one of a litany of key late-game hits by Cabrera that have helped the Yankees to comeback wins this season. Melky is hitting .346/.407/.365 in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings combined, and .464/.484/.571 in “late and close” situations (defined as the seventh inning or later with the Yankees tied, ahead by one, or with the tying run on base, at the plate, or in the on-deck circle).

Here’s a list of his biggest hits thus far this season:

  • April 22, vs. A’s: Two-run walk-off homer off Dan Giese in the bottom of the 14th.
  • April 30, vs. Angels: Tie-breaking bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 8th leads to a 7-4 win.
  • May 1, vs. Angels: Bases-loaded RBI single in the bottom of the eighth starts the scoring as the Yankees score six runs in the final two innings to win 10-9.
  • May 15, vs. Twins: Walk-off bases-loaded single off Joe Nathan plates tying and winning runs in the bottom of the ninth.
  • May 23, vs. Phillies: Walk-off single off Brad Lidge in the bottom of the ninth plates tie-breaking run.
  • June 4, vs. Rangers: Two-run, tie-breaking homer in bottom of the eighth leads to 8-6 win.

Note that all of those hits came at home. Melky is hitting .329/.383/.541 at the new Yankee Stadium, but just .288/.333/.339 on the road. Still, even that road line beats what he did for the Yankees last year (.249/.301/.341 with very similar home and road performances), and as the above list shows, he’s delievered five late-inning game winning hits. Still, he’s just fifth on the Yankees in Win Probability Added, behind Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira (whose bases-clearing double was every bit as important to Thursday’s win as Cabrera’s homer), Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada.

Categories:  Cliff Corcoran  Game Recap

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1 Rich   ~  Jun 4, 2009 11:49 pm

As I said on the other thread, I think Wang's problem is the result of a lack of stamina caused by the way they abruptly shortened his rehab assignment. In effect, this start was yet another rehab start, which is truly suboptimal, but that's on the "braintrust" not Wang.

I'm really encouraged that Girardi used Robertson in a high leverage situation, and it will probably pay big dividends.

Love the Melk, no matter what his ultimate ceiling turns out to be.

2 The Hawk   ~  Jun 5, 2009 12:08 am

[1] Agreed on everything, except maybe Robertson, but hell, why not.

Also, I think the big AB of the game may have been Swisher's, in retrospect. Great job, there.

3 a.O   ~  Jun 5, 2009 12:17 am

I can't believe they're even considering starting Wang again. But they will. I think he'll be gone by July.

4 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jun 5, 2009 12:54 am

Havn't watched the game yet but..13 of the 14 outs by Wang were Ks or groundouts..that's a good sign, isn't it?? Boston's lineup doesn't allow much room for error, yes..but Wang needs a few more starts before they think of permanently replacing him. This isn't an Andrew Jones/Big Pop-Out situation where he just completely lost it...I hope..

5 Rich   ~  Jun 5, 2009 1:03 am

[4] I think Pettitte is more likely to be replaced than Wang.

6 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 5, 2009 1:07 am

Yanks are in much better shape than the Metsies it appears.

Reyes now has a partially torn tendon in his hamstring.
Putz has a bone spur in his pitching elbow.

7 thelarmis   ~  Jun 5, 2009 1:41 am

Randy Johnson became the 10th player ever to achieve 300 wins & 3,000 strikeouts. i wrote an "article" a few years back on the "300-3,000" club. i think Big Unit will be the last... here are the other 9:

Nolan Ryan
Roger Clemens
Steve Carlton
Tom Seaver
Don Sutton
Gaylord Perry
Walter Johnson
Phil Niekro
Greg Maddux

8 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jun 5, 2009 2:39 am

[7] Hey man, got some good jazz things developing here, a link up with this new york crew that does interenet radio..stand by for details!

Big Unit..awesome...considering that he had such a late start, it's truly an impressive landmark..

9 thelarmis   ~  Jun 5, 2009 2:43 am

[8] nice! i'm spinning some Three Sounds right now. on a HUGE blue note kick!!! : )

10 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jun 5, 2009 2:46 am

[9] hah, you been on a Blue Note kick since I joined the Bx Banter last year!! But that's a GOOD thing :)

Classic Mingus on this morning, "Blues & Roots".

Ready for the Tampa series? CC vs Price tomorrow AM, on live tv here, can't wait

11 thelarmis   ~  Jun 5, 2009 2:56 am

it's true! but i got back on a metal kick there for a bit. still on it somewhat, my i'm up to my ears in Blue Note now - literally & figuratively!!! : )

yeah man, it's gonna be a tough 10-day stretch coming up. hopefully we continue to play solid ball and make some waves in the division. we can start putting teams in the rear view mirror.

12 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jun 5, 2009 3:03 am

I don't like Wang vs Beckett at all next week, but CC vs. Wakefield is nice, and Joba vs Penny is certainly in our favor..but as usual, it's going to come down to the wire. Next move to Boston: what do they do with Papi and who do they get by trade?

13 thelarmis   ~  Jun 5, 2009 3:08 am

[12] i hope they don't get Adam Dunn....

off to bed...

14 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jun 5, 2009 3:47 am

[13] Dunn hitting at the New YS would be scary...hope they get Matt Holliday and waste a huge contract on him instead.

15 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 5, 2009 6:54 am

For three innings, Wang looked pretty good to me too. The fact that he tired around 50 pitches or so shouldn't really come as a surprise. It will probably take another outing for two until he can be expected to go 100 strong pitches. Unfortunately, that means he'll face Boston beforehand, but I think the Yankees needed to re-establish Wang as soon as possible.

What the Yankees have to hope is this game gets played tonight because otherwise it will force Wang AND Pettitte into the Boston series, which would not exactly be a good thing.

[4] Boston still has a good lineup, but it is very top heavy with Bay and Youkilis now, and Youk keeps coming down with nagging injuries. At 30 years old and with his body type, these lingering injuries for Youk might become commonplace.

16 The Mick536   ~  Jun 5, 2009 7:32 am

Is Alex still in his spring training phase or does he just not have enough youth to get around on inside pitches?

17 monkeypants   ~  Jun 5, 2009 7:38 am

[15] I remain highly skeptical. I think that, as a result of consecutive injuries and being rushed back from MiL, he is lost for the year as a starter--unless the Yankees build a big lead can afford to use real games as extended spring training. I would rather see them do the reverse of their current plan: use Wang to shadow Hughes/Joba, and if the team builds a lead, they can begin to restrict the kids' innings and work in Wang.

Of course, he goes out and throws up goose eggs for five innings next time against Boston, I will be happily be proven wrong.

18 RIYank   ~  Jun 5, 2009 8:19 am

[15] Wow, I can't believe Youkilis is thirty. He hasn't hit free agency yet! He got such a late start -- I wonder why nobody points that out in evaluations of Boston's management of their farm system...

19 PJ   ~  Jun 5, 2009 8:50 am

[18] They are too busy going on and on ad nauseum about the Yankees' failed farm system... you know, the one that produced Aceves, Chamberlain, Coke, Hughes, Pena, Robertson, Melancon, Cervelli, Cabrera, Gardner, and Cano, not to mention Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Posada and Williams...

Get on board, the "new core train!" I mean, how much "core" do you really need than that? I will happily take all of those guys, thanks!

: )

20 Chyll Will   ~  Jun 5, 2009 8:59 am

My feeling is that it's still too early to count Wang out of the future and even, yes, Big Papi; with him, I'd keep an eye on how he responds during the Boston series; I have a good idea what most folks are not saying about him and not trying to stir up even more shyddit, especially after the Manny Discovery, but bottom line for me is, if he can't get up for New York, whom always seem to cajole him into a hot streak one way or another, then Boston's far more likely to make a move on him than we are (or should) on Wang (oops, I broke it; I don't want it anymore). Trading Wang? I hope not, that would be compounding your own mistakes, unless you know you've thoroughly pissed him off to the point he never wants to come back here after the season anyway (Either way, if I'm Wang's agent, the bungles this year have either cost the the team big money or big talent next year).

21 rbj   ~  Jun 5, 2009 9:17 am

Wang's first two innings were vintage. I think he'll continue to come back and be a big factor in the second half. Just no more starts in NL parks.

22 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jun 5, 2009 9:20 am

It is REALLY rare for players to utterly lose it. It happens, but we notice those, because it is unusual, and it tends to involve really young guys who had a hot debut then fade, or older guys falling faster than expected (Papi, Andruw). Wang is in his prime. It really does look like an injury + need to gain stamina. I agree with getting him out of the pen, but would have preferred 2 more 80-100 pitch outings in the minors. Still, he was fine in first three innings, then tired, it looks - against a very good offense. I have no sense, myself, that he's done. I agree that rehab/lengthening starts are not best done in a pennant race.

I think the Manny revelations do hang heavily (in their silence) over Papi's fall-off ... but what interests me this morning is just how MUCH, if we believe it was drugs, those drugs DID! There was a link here I followed awhile back where some guy did the science to assert that steroids just don't help much. It impressed me at first glance, but less and less so now. And is anyone pondering the amazing drop-off in a HUGE number of players' power numbers this year? Guys who hit 20 hrs, sitting on 1 or 3 at the 1/3 mark?

The Unit? One more tip of the hat ... it is silly to point out he just 'stuck around' ... you NEED 20 seasons of 15 wins to do this. That's sticking around! Break in at 22, and you are 42 years old (see, OYF, I can do math over coffee!). The guys who did it younger had great teams behind them, or 4 man rotations.

23 The Hawk   ~  Jun 5, 2009 9:36 am

Yeah I don't see how you could watch that game yesterday and decide Wang's done. Early on, his sinker looked really good. Lots of foul balls hit into the dirt, beside the ground ball outs. It may be that his situation will cost the team, as getting him back to 100% vs Boston (or any ML team really) is a hardly optimal, but keeping him in the pen isn't optimal either.

It's similar to them stretching Joba out last season, though here they have the advantage of being fairly sure of what they'll have at the end of the process.

24 Raf   ~  Jun 5, 2009 9:43 am

I wonder why nobody points that out in evaluations of Boston’s management of their farm system…

Youklis spent a year @ every level after he was drafted, eventually getting the call to Boston in 2004. I don't think it's a late start as much as the organization being conservative with their player.

25 monkeypants   ~  Jun 5, 2009 10:04 am

[22] [23]

For the record, I don't think that Wang's done. I just think that they cannot risk burning a few games on what amounts to rehab at the MLB level. All on the hope that his first two innings represent the "real Wang" this season, rather than the other, crappier innings. I am convinced that he was really, really not ready to come back at the beginning of the season, and his subsequent handling has only made matters worse.

It is similar to stretching him out as they did with Joba last year. But correct me if I'm wrong--didn't they stretch Joba...in the pen? Wouldn't it be better to put Wang on a more or less fixed schedule out of the BP, pitching 2 then 3 then 4 innings in relief?

26 monkeypants   ~  Jun 5, 2009 10:07 am

[24] His start was not late, but development at the MLB level has not been as amazing as some in the media project. He has had exactly one superstar season, last year at age 29. The other years were just not THAT impressive for a corner IF. He's following a pretty standard curve for a very good--not great--player: steady improvement in numbers until c. 28 peak. Maybe he's peaking a year or two later, but that is not so unusual. I predict an equally steady decline on the other side of 30. He'll always have OBP, but I doubt that he keeps slugging c. 600 for very long.

27 RIYank   ~  Jun 5, 2009 10:14 am

By a "late start" I meant a late arrival in the Major Leagues. I know they were being conservative with him, but in this case I think it's cost Youk (and maybe the Sox) some first rate years out of a first rate career.

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