Hail To The Ming

Hail To The Ming

Wang Slings Yanks Past Orioles For 17th Win

By GEORGE KING_New York Post

September 10, 2006 -- Yankees 3 Orioles 2

BALTIMORE - If there was any doubt before yesterday that Chien-Ming Wang is the Yankees' ace, it quickly vanished into the lovely, late-summer air over Camden Yards.

Early next month, the Yankees will open the ALDS at Yankee Stadium and the smart money is Wang being Joe Torre's Game 1 starter.

Yes, ahead of future Hall of Fame lock Randy Johnson and borderline Cooperstown candidate Mike Mussina.

Pitted against lefty Adam Loewen, who stifled the Yankees twice this season, Wang beat the Orioles, 3-2, in front of 45,827 and worked like a pitcher who understands the responsibility that has landed on his shoulders.

Wang, who survived a Nick Markakis shot off his right buttock in the fourth inning, notched his 17th win, tied the Twins' Johan Santana for the major league lead and kept his name in the Cy Young debate.

"Hopefully he gets Cy Young consideration," Johnny Damon said of Wang. "He should be in the top five."

The win, coupled with the Red Sox' loss last night to the Royals, lowered the Yankees' magic number for clinching the AL East to 12.

It was Wang's fourth straight victory and improved his road record to 7-3. He is 10-2 at home and that, on top of Wang being the ace, is another reason Torre should tab the 26-year-old right-hander for Game 1, since he would be ready to pitch Game 5 if it's necessary.

In 71/3 innings, Wang allowed a run and eight hits. Sixteen of the 22 outs he recorded came on ground balls courtesy of a filthy turbo sinker, which was joined by a slider and change-up.

"In the bullpen, Gator [Ron Guidry] told me to change speeds," Wang said.

Without Mariano Rivera (right forearm strain), Torre used Kyle Farnsworth to protect the two-run lead in the ninth. With Brian Bruney and Ron Villone warming in the pen from the start of the inning, Farnsworth fanned Jay Gibbons looking for the first out but gave up a solo homer to Kevin Millar that cut the lead to 3-2.

Farnsworth retired David Newhan on a stress-free fly to center and posted his third save in seven chances by getting Ramon Hernandez on a grounder to short.

Loewen, who was 2-0 with a 2.65 ERA in four starts against the Yankees this year, gave up two runs in seven innings, but against Wang it was enough to absorb his fifth loss in 10 decisions.

"We didn't have much success [against Loewen]," Derek Jeter said. "But we had Wang pitching."

Damon echoed the praise for Wang.

"He threw well enough to win," Damon said of Loewen. "But fortunately for us, we had Chien-Ming Wang. He has been special."

Jeter, who extended his hitting streak to a career-high 19 games with a first-inning double, added an RBI single in the eighth that stretched the Yankees' lead to 3-1 against reliever Rodrigo Lopez.

Jeter - who started the game at .343, five points behind AL leader Joe Mauer - went 2-for-4 and is batting .344. His streak is the longest by a Yankee since Bernie Williams hit in 21 straight 13 years ago.

Damon drove in a run with a single and Melky Cabrera plated the other with a sacrifice fly in the fifth. Cabrera helped build the Yankees' third run with a sacrifice bunt that followed Damon's leadoff double in the eighth.

Thanks to Wang, three was enough. It's what aces and Game 1 starters do.