I don't know whether Chien-Ming Wang is a country music fan or not, but I'd like to think he walked off the mound in the bottom of the sixth last night with the old Toby Keith tune "How Do You Like Me Now?" playing in his head.
Six one-hit, shutout innings is only one start, I know, but it should at least quiet some of Wang's critics following his first two starts, which resulted in losses. Wrigley Field is no picnic for many pitchers, but particularly ones who are coming off roughly a two-year layoff. The command was there - shades of his days in Yankee pinstripes - and the defense behind him kept the Nationals in the game until they were able to go deep - twice - against Matt Garza, for whom the Cubs rarely seem to score many runs.
General manager Mike Rizzo joined us Monday on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Report and confirmed that, barring some kind of setback, Wang would be on the mound every fifth day for the remainder of the season. If his performance remains consistent - though no one expects him to only give up one hit every six innings - he'll further muddy the picture insofar as Washington's April 2012 starting rotation is concerned, but that's a good kind of mud.
I was admittedly relieved when Tony Campana's hard groundball off of Michael Morse's glove was ruled a hit in the sixth; I saw no way that Davey Johnson would allow Wang to go nine, even if a no-hitter was intact, if his pitch count wasn't below 90 after eight innings. As it was, he threw 81 pitches - 53 strikes - before coming out for a pinch-hitter in the top of the 7th.
Wang's ERA dipped from 6.00 to a far more impressive 3.60 - right around his career-best - after three starts. It's really too small of a sample to read anything definitive into, but it's a major step in the right direction.