Chien-Ming Wang teetered on the brink of disaster throughout his six innings against the White Sox last night, but somehow allowed only three runs, so in the end -- after the Yankee offense poked its head out and didn’t see its shadow -- New York won 9-5. The Yanks are now one game over .500, and at with his fourth W of the season, Wang is the fastest major league pitcher to 50 wins since Doc Gooden. (Obligatory disclaimer: wins are an extremely unreliable and inaccurate stat, etc. Still, that's impressive).
Starting for the White Sox was old frenemy Jose Contreras, another in the long line of big-money free agent busts in New York who’ve gone on to success elsewhere. (He gets a pass, though, since his family was trapped in Cuba most of the time he was with the Yankees. You can see how that might be a tad bit distracting. What’s your excuse, Vazquez?). Contreras pitched a solid game, allowing just one first inning run, when Johnny Damon scored on a Matsui ground out, and one inning later a solo home run from the hollow husk of Jason Giambi. Then he settled in and, like many an April pitcher before him, stifled the Yankees’ offense.
Wang, meanwhile, struggled from the start, throwing almost 50 pitches in the first two innings alone as the White Sox put three quick runs up. (He wasn't helped by an error on Morgan Ensberg, who was subbing in for Alex Rodriguez at third base. A-Rod, of course, was on paternity leave in Florida, with his wife and newborn daughter.... or, as the Daily News would have it, "welcoming a bouncing bambina into [his] pinstriped world"). After that Wang was somwhat more efficient, but also lucky: the White Sox had a plethora of very hard hit line drives and fly balls land just within reach of the Yankee outfielders. And by the end, Chicago had stranded 13 runners.
The Yankees finally got a little momentum going, and loaded the bases in the 7th – single, walk, infield single – which brought Derek Jeter to the plate with one out. He struck out, and perhaps as a result, looked like the happiest man in Chicago one batter later, when Bobby Abreu whacked Octavio Dotel's 2-0 pitch just over the left field wall for a go-ahead grand slam.
In the bottom of the inning, perhaps concerned that things might get dull for the viewers at home, Billy Traber and Brian Bruney worked together to load the bases, which brought in Joba Chamberlain. Joba looked good under the circumstances -- well, aside from walking in a run -- and in the YES booth, David Cone kept gushing about his “moxie,” an excellent word that people just don’t use enough anymore. (Side note: I think Cone’s doing a good job on the whole... but you can just tell he’s dying to curse up a storm, and to tell several dozen potentially libelous stories. I'd love to hear him really cut loose, though I expect the FCC and certain former teammates would not.)
After a three-run homer from Johnny Damon in the eighth – cancel the obit, I think he’s fogging up the mirror! – and another solid inning from Chamberlain, Kyle Farnsworth brought his own special brand of excitement to the ninth inning. But one quick home run, walk, fielder's choice and wild pitch later, the Yankees nailed down the win.
I'm not sure it's even worth bringing up, but in the eighth inning, a black cat ran out of the stands, across the field, and straight into the Yankees dugout. I've decided to simply ignore this, not being the superstious type. (Though once, in college, I was walking across a courtyard at night, when not one but two black cats ran directly in front of me, one after the other… then proceeded to have loud sex in the bushes next to my dorm. I admit, that did give me pause.)
Finally, announcer Paul O’Neill finally asked the big burning question on all of our minds: “How can they wear black socks when they’re called the White Sox? That just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Next time on YES: Why do we drive on parkways but park on driveways?