Chien-Ming Wang is a hard man.
Hard to predict.
Hard to evaluate.
Hard to beat.
Hardest to hit.
“Sometimes it’s impossible to get the ball in the air,” Vernon Wells once said. “You have a man on first with a chance to do something and you go to the plate saying, ‘Don’t hit into a double play.’ Then bam: 6-4-3.”
Wang is a hard-throwing example of every pitching cliché: Keep the ball down, throw strikes, trust your stuff, don’t try to control the past, and always focus on your next pitch.
His narrow focus is the key.
I remember the night Wang made me a believer.
Grady Sizemore led off a rainy night at Yankee Stadium with a home run. By the time it landed in the seats, Wang was already asking for a new ball.
He gave up two more runs, worked into the seventh inning and got his sixth Major League victory.
When reporters later asked if it was discouraging to surrender an early lead he deadpanned, “No. I need to face the next hitter.”
That was the last time I worried about Wang. Some pitchers rattle easier than others. Wang doesn’t rattle. Ever. He controls the game by controlling himself.
When Sizemore launched a lead-off home run yesterday in Winter Haven, I thought back to the rainy night at Yankee Stadium.
“I need to face the next hitter.”