Yanks fall short in finale vs. Jays
Winning streak halted as Wang runs into unexpected trouble
NEW YORK -- When he's at his best, Chien-Ming Wang operates quietly, from his usually soft ground-ball style to his hushed tones in conversing with teammates.
But it was too noisy for Wang to handle the seventh inning on Thursday, as three Toronto runs spoiled six scoreless frames. It was also enough to hold off the Yankees for a 3-2 victory, snapping New York's five-game winning streak and averting a series sweep.
"Of course, I'm disappointed," Wang said through an interpreter. "If I didn't give up the three runs, we would have won the game."
Toronto didn't manage a hit until Vernon Wells stroked a two-out double in the fourth, and Wang seemed his efficient self in limiting the Jays to two hits through six innings.
A group of fans in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium even took to posting signs for each ground ball induced by Wang, much the way power pitchers are greeted with congratulatory "Ks".
"The way he was pitching," catcher Wil Nieves said, "I thought he was going to throw at least eight and just give it to Mariano [Rivera]."
That string came to an end in the seventh, as Matt Stairs opened with a double up the gap in left-center field. Wells reached on an infield tapper up the third-base line that never rolled foul, leaving Wang to scoop the baseball off the grass and trudge back to work.
One out later, Wang was hit on the left ankle by a Frank Thomas comebacker, which Andy Phillips fielded and raced to the bag while Stairs scored Toronto's first run. After a brief inspection on the mound, which included several warmup tosses, Wang then surrendered Aaron Hill's run-scoring triple up the gap, tying the game.
Wang said the ball hit off his ankle wasn't a factor, but suggested he should have mixed in his changeup a little bit more as the Jays got some better swings off him.
Then again, Wang said his approach didn't really differ that much from the first six innings: "Nothing changed," he said. "But in the seventh inning, they just hit it really hard."
It turned out that, on a day when pockets of the sellout crowd of 53,857 celebrated Wang's every ground ball, the right-hander would be done in one.
Catcher Gregg Zaun ripped a ground single past the dive of Robinson Cano in the decisive seventh, bringing home Hill and boosting the Jays to their first lead of the afternoon.
"It's just one of those things," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "It's going to happen. It hasn't happened very often to him, and we didn't give him a whole lot to work with."
"I don't ever feel comfortable against that guy," Zaun said. "Normally, I like facing sinker-slider guys, but he's just a notch above every sinker-slider guy in the league. Right now, it looks like for a long time to come, he's going to be one of the elite guys in all of baseball. It's never a comfortable at-bat."
Wang -- the Yankees' victories leader with 10, including seven straight before Thursday's loss -- would be lifted with one out in the eighth, throwing 89 pitches in a 7 1/3-inning performance, allowing seven hits while walking none and striking out three.
"Another great effort," said designated hitter Johnny Damon, who remained hitless on the homestand after taking an 0-for-3. "He deserved to have won this game. He had a rocky seventh, but he threw the ball well. It's unfortunate we couldn't take advantage of that great pitching."
The Yankees put two runs on the board quickly against Jays starter Dustin McGowan, as Damon and Derek Jeter walked to open the first. Bobby Abreu followed by stroking a two-run double to the gap in left-center field, but McGowan settled in to shut down the threat and limit the Yankees to just four hits over seven innings.
"We were fortunate in the first inning to have two walks and turn it into two runs, but we really couldn't do anything," Torre said. "We just didn't do a whole lot offensively today."
Stifled by McGowan, the Yankees went in order against right-hander Casey Janssen in the eighth inning and briefly sparked hope in the ninth, when Alex Rodriguez greeted closer Jeremy Accardo with a shallow single to right field.
But Accardo induced the final three outs via a pop up, a grounder and a fly ball, leaving the Yankees to feel little shame in getting a bit greedy.
The Yankees have enjoyed much success since the All-Star break, taking three of four from both the Devil Rays and the Blue Jays in successive series, but that didn't necessarily mean they left Yankee Stadium satisfied on Thursday.
As Rodriguez concluded, "When you're up 2-1 at home in the seventh, you feel like it's a must win."
Jeter said that the Yankees had nothing to hang their heads about in the game. New York has won four straight series and seven of nine games, and will welcome the Devil Rays in for yet another four-game series opening Friday.
"We would have liked to have won, but sometimes the other team is going to play better," Jeter said. "We couldn't get anything going. It was just one of those days."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.