The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays are expecting big things from Chien-Ming Wang and James Shields this season. After watching each pitcher shine on opening day, the clubs are feeling pretty good about their No. 1 starters.
Wang and Shields both look for another strong performance on the mound when New York and Tampa Bay continue their four-game series at Yankee Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Wang won 19 games in each of the past two seasons, but went 0-2 with a 19.06 ERA against Cleveland in last year’s AL divisional series as the Yankees were ousted in four games.
He started this season off on a better note Tuesday when he outdueled Toronto’s Roy Halladay in a 3-2 win, allowing two runs and six hits over seven innings in the final opener at Yankee Stadium.
“The two losses (to Cleveland) make me want to do even better this year,” Wang said. “I want to make the coaches trust me even more in the future.”
The Rays are hoping Shields continues to improve after he went 12-8 with a 3.85 ERA in 2007, his first full season in the majors. Tampa Bay locked him up with an $11.25 million, four-year contract over the winter.
“The sky’s the limit for this fellow. We’ve just got to keep him healthy,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “If he’s healthy, he’s going to be a very, very successful major league pitcher for many years.”
Shields was successful in his first start of this season, giving up two runs and five hits in seven innings of a 6-2 win at Baltimore on Monday.
Shields, though, lost both of his starts against the Yankees last season, getting tagged for 19 hits and 16 runs in 9 1-3 innings for a 14.46 ERA. He is 0-4 with an 8.58 ERA in five career starts versus New York.
Wang (1-0, 2.57 ERA), meanwhile, went 2-1 with a 4.42 ERA in three starts against Tampa Bay last season - all on the road. He is 6-4 with a 3.82 ERA in 11 career outings versus the Rays, including a 1-2 mark and a 3.33 ERA in four starts at Yankee Stadium.
This series opened on Friday, when the Rays coasted to a 13-4 victory. On Saturday, they roughed up Andy Pettitte in his first start of the season en route to a 6-3 win.
Jonny Gomes hit a three-run homer and drove in four Saturday for Tampa Bay, which has opened 3-1 for the first time since 2002. The Rays have never began a season with four wins in five games.
The Yankees, who led the majors with 968 runs last season, have scored just 15 in their first five games (2-3), batting .231 over that span.
Yankees slugger Jason Giambi left Saturday’s game with a sore left groin and is listed as day to day. New York also didn’t have manager Joe Girardi on the bench for the second straight game because of an upper respiratory infection.
“Yesterday I had a 103 (degree) temperature,” said Girardi, who has turned the managerial duties over to bench coach Rob Thomson. “I think I’ll be all right tomorrow.”