Chien-Ming Wang’s comeback from major shoulder surgery had included only one obvious snag. The last lingering effect from the torn capsule in his right shoulder was getting loose. Even throwing an additional 20 warm-up pitches had not helped. Entering Tuesday night, Wang had allowed 11 earned runs in his eight starts during the first inning, which comes out to a 12.38 ERA. In all his other innings, Wang had managed a 2.70 ERA.
Facing the Mets for the second time, pitching in New York for the first time since the Yankees cut ties with him, Wang bucked his slow-starting trend. Wang did not allow a run in his first four innings, another positive step in his improbable recovery. Wang allowed two runs on nine hits overall in his five-inning start, cut short only because Manager Davey Johnson wanted to pinch-hit for him.
“I’m pleased with what I’m seeing,” Johnson said. “He looked real good today. I know he could have gone further.”
The most important aspect of his ninth start came in the first inning. Wang did not labor, a departure from the majority of his starts. After his last outing, when Wang allowed two runs in the first to the Dodgers, pitching coach Steve McCatty told him not to worry if he did not feel 100-percent loose and to trust his sinker.
“I felt better tonight compared to other outings,” Wang said through a translator. “Coach McCatty told me that I have to trust myself and trust my stuff. I adjusted my mindset today. I thought that was good. I tried to just throw the sinker and see what happened.”
Wang dodged trouble through four scoreless innings, allowing five singles, inducing one double play and stranding four runners. In the fifth, though, the Mets broke through despite one defensive play and because of another.
Josh Thole led off the fifth with a double, and with one out Jose Reyes rolled a single into center field, which gave the Mets momentary hope they could score — and allowed Rick Ankiel to showcase the gift from God attached to his left shoulder. Ankiel scooped the ball and crow-hopped before unleashing a bullet to catcher Wilson Ramos, who caught the ball a few steps up the third base line and applied the tag. “A laser,” Johnson said. “Right on the money.”
Ankiel’s ninth outfield assist this season, the 26th of his career, kept the score tied at zero.
“They’re always fun,” Ankiel said. “That’s the second [time] I’ve thrown out Thole. I really like Josh, too. It makes it that much better. I’d say that and a home run are about right there equal, especially in a close situation like that, too.”
The tie Ankiel preserved was only momentary. With two outs and men on first and second, Lucas Duda smacked a line drive to right. Werth charged the ball, hoping to keep Reyes from scoring from second, but it skipped off his arm and trickled behind him. He lost his footing when he picked the ball up, and his error allowed Tejada to score all the way from first.
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NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Staten Island 2, Auburn 1: Auburn lost the three-game New York-Penn League championship series to Staten Island, 2-0. Carlos Alvarez went 2 for 4. Nathan Karns allowed one run in three innings on two hits and three walks, striking out four.