By Kat O’Brien, DETROIT, Newsday
Soon after the New York Yankees began their much-delayed game Friday night, they forced Wang Chien-ming to go back to their hotel so at least one player would be fully rested for Saturday’s game. Wang protested some, Manager Joe Torre said, but he was not to win that battle. Wang would need to help prop up his teammates, who played well into Saturday morning. That plan worked out well as the Yankees recovered from a tough loss to beat the Tigers, 7-2, Saturday night behind a strong start by Wang. The Yankees’ robust offense gave Wang (15-6) some help. He never took the mound without a lead. Hideki Matsui’s two-run double in the first inning scored Bobby Abreu (who had singled) and Alex Rodriguez (who had walked). Wang gave back a run to the Tigers in the bottom of the first when Magglio Ordonez drove in Placido Polanco with a single. After that, though, Wang was awfully stingy. He allowed only two runs, one earned, on five hits and two walks in eight innings, issuing six strikeouts. The strong outing by Wang was a much-needed one, and not only because the Yankees had dropped three of their first four games on this seven-game road trip. Wang went into yesterday’s start against the Tigers with a 7.06 ERA in four August starts. His previous outing, against the Tigers Aug. 19, he managed to give up just three runs despite nine hits and two walks in six innings. But in the two games before that, he was beat up for a total of 13 runs in 8 2/3 innings. Saturday’s start marked a return to the pitcher the Yankees hope they are getting when Wang starts. Torre talked before the game about Wang needing to use his strength — his slider. Wang did that and as a bonus, he even gave the overworked bullpen a break. After the first inning, the Tigers never put multiple baserunners on at the same time against Wang.
The only other run Wang allowed came in the fifth inning. Brandon Inge led off with a single, stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch. That run made it a 3-2 game, as the Yankees had added a run on Johnny Damon’s solo homer in the third. With the Yankees’ lineup as deep as it is these days, Torre has to pick and choose who to play. One tool he uses is that of matchups. Entering Saturday’s game, Damon was batting .387 (12-of-31) lifetime off Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman (10-7) with four extra-base hits; while Jason Giambi was hitting .200 (3-of-15) against Bonderman with no extra-base hits or RBIs. That planning worked out as Damon went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs. Three other Yankees with a positive history against Bonderman had big nights as well. Abreu, Matsui and Melky Cabrera all had averages above .300 against Bonderman. Abreu went 2-for-3 with a pair of walks and three steals; Matsui went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs and Cabrera was 1-for-4 with three RBIs.