Wang becomes second 17-game winner
Right-hander records his fourth consecutive decision
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- Chien-Ming Wang is confident when he takes the mound, but even the 26-year-old never believed he would have as much success in 2006 as he has had.
Wang became the Majors' second 17-game winner, joining Minnesota's Johan Santana for the league lead by leading the Yankees to a 3-2 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards. Wang (17-5) held Baltimore to one run on eight hits over 7 1/3 innings, striking out one batter without issuing a walk.
"I thought he was all right, but this good?" Johnny Damon said. "You expect him to go out and win 13 or 14 games in a good year, but he's stepped up to the forefront. Hopefully, he'll get some Cy Young considerations. He should finish up top."
Left-hander Adam Loewen (5-5) continued to baffle the Yankees, holding them to two runs over seven innings. But Wang outdid his counterpart, winning his fourth consecutive decision and ninth in the last 10.
"I don't know how you can't consider this guy as a Cy Young," Kevin Millar said of Wang. "I know that he doesn't have the strikeouts and all that baloney, but he has the wins, he's got the ERA and he throws bowling balls at the plate."
"I've said that it's not fair to keep counting on him the way we do," manager Joe Torre said. "But it's hard not to, as consistent as he's been for us."
Derek Jeter went 2-for-4, as his RBI single in the eighth accounted for what would turn out to be the game-winning run. Jeter has now hit in a career-high 19 consecutive games, the first Yankee to reach that number since Bernie Williams in August 2002.
"I don't really get caught up in that," Jeter said. "We're just trying to win games."
The Yankees dropped their magic number to clinch a ninth straight American League East title to 12.
Loewen and Wang countered each other with one zero after another on the scoreboard, carrying the scoreless game into the fifth.
New York finally broke through against Loewen in the fifth, as Kevin Thompson walked and Nick Green singled, putting runners at first and second. Damon blooped a single to score Thompson, then Melky Cabrera hit a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Green to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
Wang allowed a pair of singles in the bottom of the inning, but he escaped unharmed when Melvin Mora grounded out to Green at third base for the third out. Before the game, Wang and catcher Jorge Posada talked about changing speeds a little more, resulting in more sliders and changeups from the pitcher.
"Hitters had only seen the sinker and inside fastball," Wang said. "The slider is another pitch."
Loewen settled in after his one rocky inning, retiring six of the next seven batters. He left the game after seven innings, charged with two runs on six hits and two walks. Loewen struck out six batters.
"I thought we had some better at-bats against him," Torre said of Loewen. "At least we made him work a little harder. He still got late in the game. He's pretty impressive."
The Orioles cut the lead to one in the seventh, after Millar started the inning with a leadoff double and Brandon Fahey singled him in with two outs.
"When they score off him, he goes right back and makes better pitches," Torre said. "He's a very special youngster with a great deal of poise."
Wang came back out for the eighth, retiring Mora before turning the ball over to Mike Myers. The lefty got Nick Markakis to pop out before handing the ball off to Scott Proctor, who retired Miguel Tejada.
With Mariano Rivera still nursing a mild muscle strain in his right forearm, Kyle Farnsworth closed out the game in the ninth, earning his third save of the season despite giving up a solo homer to Millar.
After the game, Wang said he never expected to win 17 games this season, let alone with four starts remaining in September. When asked if he thinks he should be included in the Cy Young race, Wang modestly said, "No," but one of his opponents on Saturday believes otherwise.
"We look for strikeouts, we look for dominating pitchers, we look for dominating strikeout pitchers," Millar said. "He consistently throws strikes, he consistently pounds the strike zone and he consistently gets ground balls. And he's got wins; what is he, 17-5? You can't overlook that. This guy is as dominating as there is going right now on the mound."