Chien-Ming Wang may never receive the kudos generally lauded upon the game's top hurlers, his high winning percentage overlooked as a result of pitching toward contact instead of the league lead in strikeouts.
Yet for those who doubt Wang's status as a so-called "true ace," his supporters now have a trademark performance to point to. Wang hurled a two-hit shutout on Friday in what he called his finest game for the Yankees, defeating the Red Sox, 4-1, in a complete-game effort at Fenway Park.
"He had everything today," Yankees catcher Jose Molina said. "He got them off balance -- inside, outside -- and everything for a strike. When Wang is on, he's on. Today was one of those nights."
Wang faced the minimum until J.D. Drew connected for a solo homer in the fifth inning, when the ball tipped off Bobby Abreu's glove in right field and landed in the Red Sox's bullpen. Unrattled, Wang cruised the rest of the way, allowing only Coco Crisp's bunt single with two outs in the ninth before finishing his masterpiece.
"I feel especially good about this one because I threw the ball very good here in Boston," Wang said, noting the Yankees' rivalry with their classic American League East foes.
"He was electric tonight," said Jason Giambi, who homered for New York. "You could tell the ball was moving a lot. He looked comfortable, and he threw a lot of strikes. Boston is almost the exact mirror team -- guys take a lot of pitches and do a lot of damage by taking walks and hitting home runs. I think he just pounded the strike zone so much that it caught them off guard."
Mixing his pitches and creating more fly-ball outs (14) than usual, Wang retired the first 10 batters before Dustin Pedroia chopped a hard shot down the third-base line in the fourth inning. Alex Rodriguez made a stab but was charged with a throwing error on a questionable scoring decision.
David Ortiz, batting .500 (15-for-30) against Wang coming into the game, then grounded into a 5-4-3 double play, keeping Wang's no-hit bid intact. Ortiz finished 0-for-3, as did Manny Ramirez, who had punished Wang to a .591 (13-for-22) mark.
"I was hoping he got a no-hitter, so I didn't really care," Rodriguez said. "Obviously, I thought it was a hit, but any questionable call, I was hoping they'd give him an error. I didn't want to be responsible for history."
With Wang cruising, the Yankees scored the first run of the 18-game regular-season slate between the rivals in the fifth inning, as Molina touched right-hander Clay Buchholz with the first of his two doubles, scoring Hideki Matsui.
Given the lead, Wang saw his mechanics get a little sloppy in the fifth. Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis flied out to deep right for the first two outs of the inning, but Drew launched a deep drive that Abreu appeared to have a bead on. Abreu jumped at the wall but jarred his right shoulder against the fence, tipping the ball into the Boston bullpen and spoiling the no-hit bid.
"I felt bad," Abreu said. "It could have been a chance to no-no there. We try to do the best we can do."
Wang would recover, getting Jason Varitek to fly loudly to center before pitching coach Dave Eiland corrected a flaw in Wang's mechanics, telling him to get more on top of his pitches. Armed with that, Wang retired the next 11 before Crisp reached on his two-out bunt in the ninth. Pedroia flied out to left for the final out, and Wang's two-hitter was complete.
"I had good defense catching the ball for me," Wang said. "I could control the ball inside and outside today. Sometimes the slider would run, but the sinker was good."
"When you have a sinker like he does, and you're throwing it down like he was tonight, not many people are going to hit it," Molina said.
In the fifth, Buchholz walked three and surrendered Molina's run-scoring double, but the right-hander escaped when Melky Cabrera lined to first for a double play. Facing the Yankees for the first time in his career, Buchholz walked three and struck out three, leaving after six innings tied in an eventual no-decision.
"The team looks awfully good when a guy can go out there and throw nine innings and be great," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez, Matsui and Molina each had two hits for New York, who added a run in the ninth on Abreu's broken-bat infield single. The Red Sox and Yankees will meet 17 more times this season, including twice more as they complete the weekend series in Boston.