After 32-year-old sinkerballing right-hander Chien-Ming Wang gave up eight hits, two runs and three walks in 5.1 IP in the Washington Nationals' 2-1 loss to the New York Mets last week, Nats' skipper Davey Johnson explained to reporters that Wang's issues had to do with the pitcher's arm slot. "I liked [Wang's] arm strength and everything," Johnson said, "He's having a little problem. He gets to the side of the ball, he doesn't stay on top of it. He sometimes gets out of the slot that he needs to be in. When he stays [in] that slot, his stuff is outstanding. He gets to the side of it and the ball just is flat and it runs. It's just a consistency thing with him." When Wang stays on top of the ball, and gets the sink he's known for, Johnson explained, "It's almost unhittable." The pitcher and pitching coach Steve McCatty have been working on the right-hander's consistency, but as the Nats' manager put it, "This is kind of early in [Wang's] 'Spring' and his year pitching at this level. Hopefully he'll be more consistent."
Wang's only made two starts (and one relief appearance) for the Nationals so far this season, after suffering hamstring injury late in Spring Training that delayed the beginning of his 2012 major league campaign until May 25th. The former two-time 19-game winner with the New York Yankees has a 5.11 ERA, 6.29 FIP, six walks (4.38 BB/9) and five strikeouts (3.65 K/9) in 12.1 IP since he finished his rehab assignment and worked his way back to the majors. In 11 starts last season, after two years on the sidelines spent recovering from surgery to repair a torn capsule in his right shoulder, Wang was (4-3) with a 4.04 ERA, 4.57 FIP, 13 walks (1.88 BB/9) and 25 K's (3.61 K/9) in 62.1 IP.
"He's got such great movement when he stays in the slot," the Nats' 69-year-old skipper said after Wang threw 84 pitches in 5.1 IP against the Mets last time out. "When he's right, when he's in mid-80 pitches, he's in the seventh inning. When he's having trouble finding it, he's going to have a higher pitch count." Wang faces a Toronto Blue Jays team tonight he's faced ten times in his career, with all of those starts coming between his debut in 2005 with New York and 2009 when he was injured. Wang's (4-2) in those 10 starts vs the Jays with 17 BB (2.48 BB/9), 24 K's (3.50 K/9), a 4.82 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and .273 BAA in 61.2 IP.
Here's the lineup that will be backing Chien-Ming Wang up tonight as the Nationals look for their fifth-straight win:
Tonight's lineup: Lombo, lf; Harper, rf; Zimmerman, 3b; LaRoche, 1b; Morse, dh; Desmond, ss; Espinosa, 2b; Ankiel, cf; Solano, c; Wang, p— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) June 12, 2012