The Chien-Ming Wang situation

In sports, anything can happen on any given night. There are no certainties.

Still, you have to wonder if the Nationals feel like they let an opportunity slip away by winning just two out of their four games against the Rockies, a team with the third-worst record in baseball.

Of the four starting pitchers the Rockies sent to the mound during this series, one was making his major league debut and the other three all had ERAs over 5.50.

Counter that with the four starters the Nationals sent to the mound, who all entered the series with sub-3.00 ERAs.

The Nats overcame a 7-0 deficit yesterday, but they just couldn’t get that final shot to push them ahead and get a win in the series finale.

It didn’t help that Craig Stammen needed to go out for three innings of work in relief. He did the job his first two times to the mound but got bested by Marco Scutaro in the 11th inning, giving the Rockies the victory.

I guess Scutaro exacted a little revenge after getting drilled in the head by a Stephen Strasburg fastball in the series opener.

Wang Followthrough Gray wide.jpgOne guy who was warming in the Nats’ bullpen going into the 11th was Chien-Ming Wang, who pitched the eighth inning on Wednesday. In that inning, Wang allowed three hits and two runs, raising his ERA to 6.65.

Manager Davey Johnson likely hoped to have Wang finish the game that day by working one more frame, but after what he saw from Wang in the eighth, he gave the ball to Michael Gonzalez starting the ninth. That eighth inning wasn’t exactly the type of effort the Nationals wanted to see from the guy who they viewed as their fifth starter back in spring training.

Wang got bumped from the rotation after four straight subpar starts and Johnson talked after nearly every one of the outings about the mechanical issues in Wang’s delivery. Pitching coach Steve McCatty has been working very closely with the righty during bullpen sessions, trying to get him to slow down his movement to the plate and get more on top of the ball, which will allow his sinker to get the downward action which can make it so effective.

So far, those side sessions apparently haven’t been that effective. Wang showed he’s still struggling the other day, and Johnson gave us an indication of how he feels about using Wang in tight ballgames on Sunday, when the veteran hurler warmed in the bullpen but didn’t enter a 1-0 game when Ross Detwiler came out after just five innings.

Wang is clearly a project at this point. The Nats would prefer to let him work out his issues with McCatty before games, not during them. But if Wang isn’t going to be used other than in mop-up duty, that puts a strain on Johnson, who essentially is working with a six-man bullpen.

The Nationals believe Wang will help them down the road and can find the stuff which they saw during a start against the Yankees this spring, when he looked like the Chien-Ming Wang who won 19 games for the Bronx Bombers in 2006 and 2007. For now, though, Wang is struggling to find that form, and it’s leaving Johnson one fewer guy who he can rely on late in games and in crucial situations.

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