Wang twirls gem to sink SoxThree-game sweep leaves Yankees just five games back
Clutching a Coca-Cola cup and clad in a baggy Nike T-shirt, Chien-Ming Wang looked down at his pitching coach, Ron Guidry, listening attentively. Wang understood that, even within his afternoon's importance, he still had some growing to do.
Wang took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and Robinson Cano homered twice, completing a series sweep of the Red Sox with a 5-0 victory on Thursday. Wang allowed just one hit, but it was the free passes -- four of them -- that chafed both teacher and pupil, vowing to improve upon for next time.
"Back to the drawing board," Guidry said.
One day after Roger Clemens took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, Wang did one better, bringing the game into the seventh with the suddenly-dormant Boston offense still holding a zero in the hit column. Mike Lowell finally broke up the no-no bid with a single to right, extending his hitting streak to 12 games.
The right-hander, in command of his sinker, slider and changeup, walked four batters but was able to escape the big hit on his way to victory No. 16, tying for the Major League lead. He even garnered defensive help from an unlikely source -- first baseman Jason Giambi, who dove to his right to stab a Dustin Pedroia shot to end the third inning.
Part of Wang's success may stem back to changes made prior to his Aug. 19 start against Detroit, when Guidry began incorporating several small, hard-to-notice mechanical adjustments. Wang said he has also modified his pitch selection.
"The last two times, I have a lot of change of speeds," Wang said. "More sliders, more changeups. [Catcher Jorge] Posada calls good pitches."
"He's such a joy to work with," Guidry said. "He works hard, even as successful as he is. He still takes your criticism you give him so he can get better."
The victory, completing a sweep on the heels of strong pitching from Andy Pettitte and Clemens, moved New York into sole possession of the American League Wild Card lead. New York closed within five games of the AL East-leading Red Sox.
"We know we're better than what we did in Detroit," manager Joe Torre said, referring to a lost weekend in which the Yankees dropped three of four. "There wasn't anything we had to answer to. You're going to do as well as your pitching, and our starting pitching in this series was terrific."
Those were welcome turns of events for the Yankees, considering their dismal 2-5 road trip to Anaheim and Detroit. Now, with 28 games remaining, optimism abounded.
"Nothing's over until your last out," Cano said. "We've got a month left. We've got to keep playing hard and win games."
Cano had both of the first two big hits for the Yankees, reaching Curt Schilling twice to club his second multi-homer game of the season. Cano drilled a line-drive homer to left-center off Schilling to lead off the third inning and then went right back to Monument Park to start the fifth, drawing a curtain call from the paid matinee crowd of 55,067.
"It was a big game," Torre said, "to have a big game."
Bobby Abreu added an important RBI double off Hideki Okajima in the eighth, the 400th two-base hit of his career. A Jason Varitek throwing error down the left-field line on Abreu's steal attempt allowed two more runs to score.
Schilling lasted seven innings, allowing just the two home runs and six hits, walking one and striking out four. Three of the hits were by Jeter, who singled in the eighth off Okajima to complete a four-hit afternoon.
"We need every game," Jeter said. "I'd tell you the same thing if we beat a high school team three games in a row. We need victories, no matter who we play."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona was ejected on a controversial double play in the seventh, as J.D. Drew grounded to third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who lunged for Kevin Youkilis but missed the tag before throwing to first base. Youkilis was ruled out when Torre complained that Youkilis had run out of the baseline to avoid Rodriguez's tag, planting his feet on the infield grass.
"Alex wasn't trying just to make a token tag, he reached out," Torre said.
Joba Chamberlain threw his 11th scoreless inning around a Pedroia double in the eighth, then unexpectedly returned for duty in the ninth, a decision revolving around pitch count and the lack of a save situation for the warmed-up Mariano Rivera.
"Every once in a while," Torre said, "we're going to take certain liberties."
The maneuver did not constitute a change to the so-called "Joba Rules" which have restricted his use, according to general manager Brian Cashman, just a planned evolution. Cashman insisted that he had no issue with Torre's use of Chamberlain, but did say that he would prefer if the parameters of the "Joba Rules" would remain in-house.
"From my perspective, we have not deviated from anything," Cashman said. "There's a game plan in place and we're sticking to it."
After getting one out in the ninth, Chamberlain was ejected by home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez after twice sailing pitches over Youkilis' head. Chamberlain's final pitch was clocked at 98 mph and drew an immediate reaction from Hernandez.
"There is more than a little bit of history between these clubs," said crew chief Derryl Cousins, the second base umpire. "Those were two pretty nasty pitches the young man threw. Up here, you need to be a little better throwing strikes, and we just had to put a lid on it before there was a problem."
The move left Chamberlain stunned, meandering around the infield between home plate and first base while Torre pleaded his case with the umpiring crew.
"I'm new to this whole game," Chamberlain said. "I want to be aggressive and competitive, but not with a negative connotation."