Wang’s Bid for Perfection Couldn’t Come at Better Time

Yankees 8, Mariners 1

Wang’s Bid for Perfection Couldn’t Come at Better Time


Published : May 6, 2007 / The New York Times

Chien-Ming Wang of Tainan, Taiwan, is a talented and polite Yankees pitcher who has little to say in two languages. But Wang came close to giving the baseball world and 51,702 witnesses something special to talk about yesterday at Yankee Stadium.

In an 8-1 victory against the Seattle Mariners, Wang carried a perfect game into the eighth inning. With one out, Ben Broussard hit the ball over the right-field fence for a home run that also spoiled Wang’s no-hitter and his shutout.

After the game, in a series of short and soft answers, Wang kept smiling and insisting through an interpreter that he had no idea that he had been five outs from perfection until he finished the inning by giving up a single and getting a double-play grounder, then walking off to a standing ovation.

When Wang reached the dugout, he said, he answered questions from catcher Jorge Posada and all the other players who came up to him and wanted to know what happened.

What happened, Posada said, was an 0-1 changeup that Posada called for the first time in the game. Wang left the pitch too high to Broussard, a left-handed hitter, who pulled it hard.

“I’ll think about it,” Posada said of the pitch. “You never second-guess yourself. But, after it happens, you do.”

Posada said that Wang seemed to weaken somewhat in the fourth inning, after Ichiro Suzuki’s hard smash back to the mound hit Wang in the left leg before Wang found the ball and threw out Suzuki. After that, Posada said, Wang landed less aggressively after throwing.

Posada said that he began to think seriously about a perfect game in the seventh after Raúl Ibáñez, batting with two outs, took the first three pitches for balls but struck out swinging.

Wang struck out four batters and got 14 of his 24 outs on ground balls because of his sinking fastball. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez said that when Wang pitches, “I’m so consumed with the thought that I’m going to get a lot of work.”

Because Wang works quickly and efficiently, fielders stay alert behind him and often make sharp plays. One example yesterday was a catch by Hideki Matsui on a long fly to left by Suzuki in the top of the seventh. Matsui gloved it on the run near the warning track.

Broussard, in describing the sinking and horizontal movement of Wang’s pitches, said: “It’s hard to explain. His pitches break real late. You think it’s going to be down the middle, and it’s off the black,” or the borders of home plate. Wang has said that he can make the ball break either way as it sinks.

“He’s not complicated,” Yankees Manager Joe Torre said. “He’s not necessarily a one-pitch pitcher, but he makes you dig the ball out.

“He throws a lot of strikes.”

Wang’s showing was a tonic for a high-salaried team that started the day in last place in the American League East because of, among other things, injuries and inconsistent performances among the members of the starting rotation. Two other Yankees starters, Jeff Karstens and Phil Hughes, have been injured in the past week.

Wang finished with 65 strikes in 103 pitches. He got the better of Seattle’s Jeff Weaver (0-5), a former Yankee who pitched well until tiring and giving up five runs in the sixth.

Wang was the runner-up last season to Minnesota’s Johan Santana for the American League’s Cy Young award. Wang, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina form the core of the Yankees’ rotation.

The Yankees, who have won four of their past five games, took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a sacrifice fly by Bobby Abreu.

In the sixth they made the score 6-0 as Matsui was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, Posada singled home a run, Melky Cabrera walked with the bases loaded and Derek Jeter drove home two more with a double. At that point, the game was essentially over, although the suspense was not.


Alex Rodriguez was hit on the left elbow by a Sean White pitch in the seventh inning and was replaced by pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo in the eighth. Rodriguez said that the elbow was sore; he not know if he would play today.

Johnny Damon, the center fielder, was not in the starting lineup because of what he called “a pretty good cramp from my knee to my calf” in his right leg, the result of an awkward swing in the ninth inning of the Yankees’ 15-11 loss Friday night.

Kei Igawa, the left-handed starting pitcher who could not finish the fifth inning Friday night despite leads of 5-0, 6-3 and 8-6, said yesterday that he would run more between starts than he has been since joining the Yankees this season.

When the rookie Phil Hughes left Tuesday’s game at Texas with a pulled hamstring in his left leg, it was expected that he would miss four to six weeks. But General Manager Brian Cashman said yesterday that the Yankees were cautiously optimistic about Hughes, a right-hander. “He tested very well,” Cashman said. “There is no discoloration, no bruise, no blood. All these things are good signs. Maybe it is not as bad as we first expected.” Hughes was to have a magnetic resonance imaging test yesterday.