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April 30, 2005

by SG

At 9-14, the Yankees were desperate for a win. On a rainy day today, they sent out one of the few legitimate prospects in a pretty barren farm system out to try and break a 3 game losing streak. In addition to having lost 3 straight games, the Yankees had scored a total of 2 runs in three games, a feat they last achieved in 1999.

9-14 is not a good record, but it is worth noting that the 2001 Oakland Athletics started the season 8-15 and finished at 102-60, and the 2002 Angels started the season 9-14 and finished at 99-63.

So, with Jaret Wright out for the next 4-6 weeks, the Yankees had to dip into their barren farm system and ask Chien-Ming Wang, aka Tiger, to fill the fifth starter's role and pitch well enough to get a win with what would possibly be little run support. I was very anxious to watch Wang's debut. Fabian wrote a writeup about him a few weeks back, but I wanted to see him first hand.

Wang pitched a great game. He pounded the strike zone against an aggressive Blue Jays team, throwing a first pitch strike to 19 of the 29 hitters he faced. He primarily threw his fastball, which was around 92 mph for most of the game, with some occasional splitters. Wang gave the Yankees exactly what they needed over 7 innings, allowing 6 hits, 2 BB, and only 2 runs. He seems to have a free, easy motion that has some good deception, and got groundball outs for 15 of his 21 outs. One thing that was a bit troubling was the fact that he did not strike out anyone, and didn't seem to be missing any bats at all. However, his minor league stats and scouting reports don't seem to indicate this as a problem for him, so I wouldn't overreact to the results of one start. Lack of strikeouts aside, everything else that I saw was very positive. He kept the ball low, he was hitting the corners, and he pitched out of some jams for the most part. With a little better defensive play behind him his final line may have looked even better. I was also impressed by his calm demeanor on the mound and his poise throughout the game.

Unfortunately, most of the rest of the Yankees are still not playing that well, and Wang was denied his first major league victory when Tom Gordon grooved a 2-1 pitch to Corey Koskie that tied the game. With the Yankee offense again looking flat, and the Yankee bullpen a bit shaky, I figured the game was lost at this point.

The Yankees failed to score with Bernie, Sheffield, or Slump-Zilla™ in the bottom of the eighth. Joe Torre then went to his pen again, this time for Mariano Rivera. Mariano has been MIA for most of the season. He hadn't pitched since the 21st, due to game situations and a flu that he has been suffering from. Although still not fully over his flu, he took the ball and delivered his best outing of the season, throwing only 8 pitches, 6 of them strikes to retire the Jays 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth.

Vinny Chulk came in for the Jays and was wild, walking Alex Rodriguez on four pitches. That brought up Andy Phillips who had replaced Jason Giambi in the lineup when Giambi had to leave with cramps in his right forearm. Joe Torre decided that even though Chulk was having trouble throwing strikes, the Yankees should give up an out to set up the winning run on second with Tino Martinez, John Flaherty, and Tony Womack due up. Granted, Posada would likely pinch-hit for Flaherty, but this was a stupid decision based on not just who was due up, but also on the fact that bunting is clearly not one of Phillips's strengths, which he demonstrated when he bunted in front of the catcher who was able to throw out Alex Rodriguez at second. So the Yankees had exchanged an out for the right to have a slower runner on first. Thankfully, Tino Martinez singled through the right side and Phillips got to third. Posada then pinch-hit for Flaherty. What the Blue Jays did here puzzled me. Posada has been striking out and hitting into double plays all year, either one of those would have been what they needed, but they intentionally walked him to load the bases for the poster boy of the front office's blunders, Tony Womack.

Womack gets a lot of grief from most Yankee fans, because he's not a good player. However, I still rooted for him in this spot because I want my team to win. Womack singled into RF, the winning run scored, and Womack had his 'Yankee Moment.'(Thanks to Weekly Journalist at Baseball Think Factory for that one)

The Yankees will try and win the series tomorrow by sending Carl Pavano out against Ted Lilly. Pavano's been pitching pretty well, and Lilly has struggled this season, but until the Yankee offense starts scoring consistently I won't feel comfortable about them against anyone. It would be nice if they could start a winning streak at some point. Maybe this game will be the one to get them going.