The complete game shutout. Last year, the Yankees got four of them, the first coming on May 7 when Mike Mussina shutout the A's on a sunny Saturday in the Bronx. That kicked off a ten-game winning streak that pushed the 11-19 Yankees over .500 for the first time since the fifth game of the season. The last of those ten wins was the Yankees' second complete game shutout, thrown by some guy named Carl Pavano in Seattle. Less than a month later, Moose tossed his second shutout, this one at home against the Pirates, kicking off a five-game winning streak that pushed the 30-32 Yankees back over .500 yet again. Finally, Aaron Small bookended things nicely by shutting out the A's in Oakland on a sunny Saturday afternoon in September.
Last night, the Yankees received their first complete game shutout of the year as Chien-Ming Wang made short work of the Devil Rays by limiting them to just four base runners, two on singles, two on walks. Wang needed just 104 pitches to shut out the Rays in a game that lasted two hours and 33 minutes primarily because the Yankees put 17 men on base and scored six runs. Wang was perfect through four innings, faced just 30 batters, and recorded 18 of his 27 outs on ground balls. The only man to get past first base was Julio Lugo, who reached on an infield single with two outs in the sixth, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch only to be stranded when Rocco Baldelli flew out to center.
As for the Yankees, they got on the board right away when a two-out Alex Rodriguez single plated a Johnny Damon lead-off double in the first. They added two more in the second. Andy Phillips led off with a single and was called safe at second when Julio Lugo bobbled and dropped the pivot on a double play ball off the bat of Melky Cabrera. Miguel Cairo then bunted both runners up and Derek Jeter drove them home with a single to right. Two more runs came in the fourth when Devil Rays' starter Tim Corcoran (no relation) followed a Derek Jeter one-out double by walking Giambi, Rodriguez and Posada, the last two on nine pitches. Posada's walk drove in the Yankees' fourth run and drove Corcoran from the game. Chad Harville then came in and, after getting Bernie Williams to fly out to shallow left, walked in the Yankees fifth run by giving Andy Phillips a free pass on five pitches. Two innings later, Bernie homered off Harville to put the final score at 6-0
As evidenced by his performance last night, Wang continues to improve as the season progresses. Nothing sums that up better than his monthly splits:
April: 4.80 ERA
That said, Wang is about to enter uncharted territory in terms of innings pitched. In 2004 Wang threw 149 1/3 innings between double and triple-A. Last year, he threw a career-high 158 innings between Columbus and the majors, including his start in Game 2 of the ALDS. With last night's performance, Wang has thrown 148 innings this year. Wang is on pace for 233 innings this year in the regular season alone, a number not far from his current major league total of 255 1/3 innings over the past two seasons. This is just one more reason why the Yankees would be well served if Brian Cashman can wrangle up a starting pitcher by Monday.
In other news, Phillips has just 11 walks on the season, but three of them have come in last three games, following Joe Torre benching him for a couple of games and criticizing his plate discipline to the press. Phillips, who has received heavy criticism for his dismal on-base percentage of late, has reached base seven times in 13 plate appearances since returning to the line-up.
Finally, Tim wasn't the only pitcher named Corcoran to get beat up last night. The Nationals Roy Corcoran got lit up in relief of Tony Armas Jr. in the Dodgers' pasting of the Nationals in L.A. Together the two Corcorans posted the following line: 5 1/3 IP, 11 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 1 HR, 9 BB, 3 K. Myself, I sat home and ate a delicious bowl of chili while watching Chien-Ming work his magic. Good times.