Wang gets chance to show true ability
Pitching on short rest, righty tries for better results than Game 1
NEW YORK -- Chien-Ming Wang has a classic shot at redemption. Teetering on the brink of elimination, the Yankees are turning to their ace on short notice, sending Wang to the mound at Yankee Stadium for Game 4 of the American League Division Series on Monday.
Just four days earlier, Cleveland torched Wang for eight runs in the first of two series-opening losses for the Yankees. It was a rare pummeling for the Taiwanese right-hander, so New York is giving Wang a chance to save the club's season. A win on Monday would send the series back to Ohio, and the Yankees believe Wang is the man to get them there.
"We get a chance to come back and win a ballgame and build more momentum," said Yankees manager Joe Torre, whose club picked up an 8-4 win in Game 3 on Sunday. "We understand if we win [on Monday], we have to go back over to Cleveland, and we didn't have a good memory over there.
"We're going to rely, as we always do, on Wanger out there."
The alternative for the Yankees was to turn to veteran right-hander Mike Mussina, but a few factors convinced New York that Wang would be fine on three days' rest. The most obvious reason is that Wang is the staff's ace, having captured 19 victories in each of the past two seasons.
"Well, he's a 19-game winner, he's pitched well at the Stadium, and we relied on him so much," Torre said of Wang. "Taking nothing away from [Mike Mussina] -- Moose hasn't pitched in a while. Certainly, I made him aware before the game that we'll decide later who is going to pitch, and he was comfortable with that. I just told him afterward that it was going to be Wanger, and he said, 'Fine.'"
Wang has also historically been dominant at Yankee Stadium, where he has gone 26-9 with a 3.04 ERA in his career. This season, the 27-year-old right-hander has a 10-4 record with a tidy 2.75 ERA in 16 starts at home. Pitching on such short rest is also sometimes easier for a pitcher like Wang, who relies heavily on a sinker.
"A lot of times, it can work to your advantage," Yankees pitching coach Ron Guidry said. "If you get tired, that's when your sinker really works. So maybe on one less day, he might not be able to throw as hard, but maybe his sinker will move more. But it's a tossup. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. You just hope it works [on Monday]."
Wang has pitched after just three days of rest only once in his big league career -- in 2005 -- and he allowed two runs in 4 2/3 innings. Still, naming Wang the starter for Game 4 hardly came as a surprise. The right-hander was on the winning end of New York's lone playoff victory last season, and he went 6-1 with a 3.15 ERA over his final nine regular-season starts this year.
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The loss that Wang took during Game 1 in Cleveland on Thursday was one of the worst outings of his career, but he said he wasn't worrying too much about that performance. Wang struggled to keep his sinker down in the strike zone during the outing at Jacobs Field -- an issue he'll look to reverse when he takes the hill in the Bronx.
"We're always confident in Wang," New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. "He's been our horse for a long time. I know he's very comfortable at home. We're looking forward to a big game."
"I don't worry about that," said Wang, who allowed eight runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings last time out. "I'm pitching in the next game, and I'll try to keep the team winning. ... The last time I faced Cleveland, the ball was up, and [on Monday], I'll try to get the ball down.
"I feel fine. I'm not sore, and my arm feels good, so it's no problem."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.