With A-Rod's help, Wang denies Mets
Major League-leading 27th homer supports 10-strikeout gem
NEW YORK -- Chien-Ming Wang's day started with a rude awakening, the discovery of a stiff neck from sleeping wrong. He ended it right, pitching as though he was in a dream.
Wang struck out a career-high 10 batters and came within one out of a complete game, while Alex Rodriguez clubbed his Major League-leading 27th home run, leading the Yankees past the Mets in Sunday's Subway Series finale, 8-2. The win clinched a series victory and kept momentum on the side of the Yankees, who have won 11 of their last 12 games and 14 of 17.
Complaining of a tight feeling in the right side of his neck, Wang reported to Yankee Stadium well ahead of the players' 5 p.m. ET report time on Sunday, administering heat therapy to help loosen him up for the start.
The treatment didn't completely knock out the kink, but that seemed to be just about all Wang couldn't put under wraps. He limited the Mets to just six hits and mixed in an effective slider and used his changeup often -- more, he said, than in any previous big-league start, complementing his vicious sinker.
The results were striking, as Wang shut the Mets out through six innings before being touched for a run in the seventh inning -- by which time the Yankees had already pieced together a six-run lead -- on a Carlos Delgado double. Otherwise, Wang was dominant going into the final frame, striking out the side around a hit in the eighth inning.
"That's something certainly out of character for him," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "But it gives you an idea -- when he gets that off pitch working for him, the slider or changeup, that really makes a difference for him."
By Wang's 10th and final strikeout, a whiff of Mets spark plug Jose Reyes to end the eighth, Rodriguez said that he looked up and marveled at what the Yankees' "special talent" had achieved.
"I couldn't believe it," Rodriguez said. "I thought it was a different game."
With a series of relievers having risen in the bullpen, only to be seated once again as Wang continued to rifle past the Mets, Torre permitted Wang to go batter-to-batter in the ninth inning as he neared his eventual 113-pitch conclusion.
A route-going effort dangled as a teaser, but Wang allowed a leadoff double to Ramon Castro and a run-scoring hit to Carlos Beltran before getting David Wright to hit into a 5-4-3 double play that put him just one out away from completion.
Torre said that the Yankees had already decided that Wright would be Wang's last batter, no matter the outcome, and Mike Myers came on and struck out Delgado to end the game.
"There was no sense in him going 120 [pitches]," Torre said.
The Yankees built their lead by battering around an old friend, right-hander Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, who surrendered six runs and seven hits -- including the two-run homer to Rodriguez and a solo shot to Johnny Damon -- before being lifted with two outs in the fifth inning.
The red-hot Rodriguez's blast came with two outs in the first, as the slugger unloaded on a 2-0 pitch and sent it over the left-field wall, the beginning of a three-RBI night for A-Rod. Rodriguez clubbed five home runs on the Yankees' homestand and leads the Majors with 73 RBIs, personal achievements that he said are more enjoyable now that the Yankees have found a formula for success.
"Winning's what makes it all special," Rodriguez said. "April was OK, but we weren't really winning any games, so it was hard to enjoy that. The fact that we're [winning], that's what counts."
Miguel Cairo added an RBI double and Damon had a run-scoring hit in the second, and the Yankees tacked on when Bobby Abreu tripled and came home on a Rodriguez sacrifice fly in the third.
Damon reached Hernandez in the fifth for a solo shot to right, the designated hitter's fourth home run of the season and an extremely good sign for the Yankees, given Damon's recent absence from the lineup due to a mild abdominal strain that the club feared might make him unavailable for use in National League parks.
"I definitely feel like I should be doing better," Damon said. "Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come."
Torre said that the Yankees still haven't come to a decision on where Damon could play, if at all, under NL rules. But Sunday's showcase certainly didn't hurt.
"Doing what he's doing right now has kept him pretty healthy," Torre said. "I'm not saying we're not going to play him in the outfield and we're not going to play him at first base. We're going to have to make a decision."
Jorge Posada completed the Yankees' scoring by ripping a two-run homer, his ninth, off reliever Aaron Heilman in the eighth inning. The power displays provided plenty of support for Wang, who won his fourth consecutive outing and his first career start against the Mets.
After missing the beginning of the season and having a slow beginning, Wang has been rolling, allowing just four earned runs in his last 28 innings.
As the Yankees prepare to embark on a three-city, 10-day road trip to Colorado, San Francisco and Baltimore, Torre said that Wang will have the benefit of an extra day of rest on the upcoming schedule. Pushed back to Saturday, Wang's next outing and an attempt at a fifth straight win will come at San Francisco's AT&T Park, a setting Wang said he was looking forward to due to a large Taiwanese population in the Bay Area.
Of course, there's also one large caveat to that matchup, one that could serve to somewhat interrupt the good feelings of the hurler's recent run.
Yet, when asked about the prospect of facing Giants slugger Barry Bonds in less than a week, Wang simply showcased the smile of a man with weapons of confidence at his disposal.
"Keep the ball down," he said, grinning.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.