It took a member of New York’s starting rotation to straighten out the bullpen. On Sunday, the Yankees’ ace from last season will try to give his team a rare quality start.
The Yankees (9-13) earned their first victory in five meetings with the Red Sox this season on Saturday, winning 3-1 to avoid their first eight-game skid since 1995. After starter Jeff Karstens suffered a broken leg from a Julio Lugo line drive in the first inning, Kei Igawa pitched six innings of two-hit relief, which included two double-play grounders from Boston slugger David Ortiz.
“He was all right. Nothing special,” Ortiz said. “He was throwing a lot of hittable pitches, but we were just not hitting it.”
Igawa had posted a 7.84 ERA through his first four starts, prompting Yankees manager Joe Torre to skip his scheduled turn in the rotation Saturday in favor of Karstens. New York’s relievers had combined for a 7.66 ERA and three blown saves during the seven-game losing streak.
“See, you can’t keep ripping our bullpen,” Torre said with a touch of sarcasm. “This is a huge win for us. We needed a close game to win. We needed a number of people to do a job, and they did.”
Closer Mariano Rivera did his job effectively for the first time this season, pitching a scoreless ninth inning for his only save in three opportunities. He had given up four runs in one-third of an inning in a non-save situation Friday night, when the Yankees fell 11-4.
Despite Igawa’s and Rivera’s efforts, the Yankees have gone seven straight games without a quality start. They’ve pitched through the sixth inning only six times in 22 games, while compiling a 5.94 rotation ERA.
Wang (0-1, 5.68 ERA) will try to change that. The right-hander, whose 19 wins tied Minnesota’s Johan Santana for the major league lead in 2006, began this season on the disabled list with a pulled right hamstring.
He made his 2007 debut Tuesday, when he gave up four runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-4 loss at Tampa Bay.
Wang did his best work at Yankee Stadium last season, going 11-3 with a 3.03 ERA in 17 starts. However, he is just 2-3 with a 4.91 ERA in seven career appearances - six starts - versus the Red Sox.
Several Boston hitters have enjoyed great success against Wang. Left fielder Manny Ramirez is 9-for-13 (.692) with two homers, four walks and a .765 on-base percentage against the him while Ortiz is 8-for-17 (.471) with a home run.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona may be tempted to give Eric Hinske a rare start. Hinske, who can play first base, third base or the outfield, is 10-for-16 (.625) with two homers and four doubles versus Wang.
Saturday’s defeat ended a three-game winning streak for the Red Sox (15-8), who will send Julian Tavarez (0-2, 8.36) to the mound for the series finale.
Tavarez could be making one of his final starts, as left-hander Jon Lester is slated to make his return to the rotation from cancer after one more minor league outing. Opponents are batting .317 against Tavarez, who has not lasted longer than 5 1-3 innings in any of his three starts.
The right-hander gave up a season-high six runs in 4 2-3 innings of Tuesday’s 10-3 loss to Toronto. He is 1-1 with a 5.79 ERA in 19 career appearances, including two starts, against New York.
Yankees captain Derek Jeter went 3-for-5 for the second straight game Saturday, increasing his batting average to .348. He is 3-for-11 (.273) with a walk and a strikeout lifetime versus Tavarez.