Wang pulls Yanks closer to Red Sox
Home runs by Rodriguez, Giambi make winner of right-hander
NEW YORK -- Ron Guidry's greeting was mixed as Chien-Ming Wang walked out of the shower on Monday night, fresh off a victorious evening of work against the Red Sox.
On one hand, the pitching coach said he was pleased -- especially since the Yankees defeated the Red Sox, 6-2, to take the opener of a three-game series. But Wang sensed frustration, stemming from the three walks he'd allowed while testing out a new soft-tossing style.
"You're not too happy," Wang told Guidry, who responded in the affirmative.
But as Wang went lighter on his trademark sinker and trusted his developing changeup and slider more, offering a new look to the Red Sox, the experiment came away with mostly positive results.
Alex Rodriguez clubbed his Major League-leading 18th home run, Jason Giambi homered, Johnny Damon had three hits and Robinson Cano added a two-run triple to blast the Yankees past Boston and starter Tim Wakefield.
Wang made one start against the Red Sox earlier this season, an April 29 effort at Yankee Stadium, and came away dissatisfied concerning how the potent lineup had pounced on him for four runs in six innings.
"It's not an easy club for him to pitch to," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Thus, the plan was hatched to soften things up the second time around. With catcher Jorge Posada calling the shots in a renewed approach, Wang discovered that he could work around the sinker, retiring the leadoff batter in each of the seven innings he started. Lesson learned.
"I can get a lot of guys out [with the new style]," said Wang, who improved to 3-4 in eight career starts against Boston.
Giving the Red Sox a new look for a night was one thing for Wang, who held the offensive output to two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, striking out five. But anyone expecting Wang to completely abandon his bowling ball-esque sinker -- as Guidry is fond of comparing it -- may have a long wait in store.
"It gives him more ammunition," said Torre. "He certainly has a variety of stuff, but his bread and butter is the sinker. We're not going to get away from that."
With Wakefield struggling to find the touch of his trademark knuckleball, Wang would soon have plenty of backing as he continued to see what his pitches could and could not do against the division's top team.
Rodriguez extended his Major League home run lead in the first inning, pouncing on the first pitch he saw for a two-run shot to deep left. It was the third consecutive game with a home run for Rodriguez, who slugged 14 in April to tie a big-league record and appears to be "back," according to Torre.
"I feel very comfortable," Rodriguez said. "It's frustrating, because you'd like to do something every at-bat, but I do feel more comfortable."
Back in the lineup after missing three starts due to a bone spur and plantar fasciitis in his left foot, Giambi led off the second inning with a solo home run to the upper deck in right field. He'd also later score from first base on a three-base hit, testing his orthotic inserts and reporting no issues.
"I never really felt like it was a matter of my swing," Giambi said. "I just felt like I couldn't push off. Every time I'd turn on that back foot, it'd feel like it'd just tear in half. It was kind of nice to swing and run the bases a little bit and not feel a ton of pain."
Derek Jeter added an RBI double off Wakefield, who has given the Yankees periodic fits over the years but provided no such headaches on Monday.
"This ballclub had a real good feel to it today," Torre said. "They felt real good about themselves."
Cano opened the floodgates in the fifth inning with a two-run triple off Wakefield, who allowed six runs and nine hits in five innings. The veteran right-hander walked five and struck out two before heading to the clubhouse, soon to be saddled with his fifth loss.
The victory would be big for the Yankees, Jeter said, if only because every game at this point is. Jeter facetiously said that even if the Yankees were playing a high school team and not their arch rivals, the game would be vital.
"You can't keep saying it's early," Jeter said. "You've got to come out ready to win."
Making his sixth start of the season, Wang flexed his control of the Red Sox early. The right-hander wriggled out of two-out jams in the first two innings before settling in, retiring eight of nine batters before surrendering back-to-back doubles to Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz in the fifth, accounting for Boston's first run.
Wang scattered seven hits, walking three and striking out five, before finally running out of steam in the seventh. The right-hander left to a standing ovation after allowing a one-out double to Youkilis.
Ortiz reached left-hander Mike Myers for a sacrifice fly, scoring Julio Lugo, but right-hander Brian Bruney struck out Manny Ramirez looking to end the inning.
The Yankees escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth as Scott Proctor got Lugo to ground out on a deft play by Cano, who flipped the ball to second base for a fielder's choice and averted an oncoming disaster in the making.
"We don't have the luxury to throw games away," Rodriguez explained it.
Kyle Farnsworth recorded three outs in the ninth inning for the Yankees, who recorded their second straight victory after losing seven of their previous nine games. Giambi described the ensuing mood of the clubhouse as positive.
"The one great thing about this team is that we have a lot of veteran players," Giambi said. "They've been upbeat, trying to know that we can dig our way out of this hole. We've had a lot of fight. It hasn't been like we haven't been in games. We just haven't gotten over the hump."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.