WASHINGTON (CBS4) — It was the same story on a different day for the Florida Marlins as they let the Washington Nationals knock them even further down this season with a 4-3 loss Sunday afternoon.
With that familiar slow delivery — reaching both hands behind his head — and that familiar biting sinker, Chien-Ming Wang is looking more and more like the pitcher who twice won 19 games in a season for the Yankees.
Except now, at long last healthy again, Wang is with the Washington Nationals, and he’d like to stay with the club that gave him a chance to return to the majors.
Making the longest start of his comeback from surgery on his pitching shoulder, Wang left with two outs in the seventh inning Sunday, and rookie Chris Marrero drove in two runs.
“I really appreciate their patience the last two years. Hopefully in the future I can win more games for them,” Wang said through an interpreter. “Hopefully I can come back here, but the decision is made by the team. But personally, I would like to come back.”
Wang (3-3) gave up three runs and six hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out five in his 6 2-3 innings.
“The main thing is he’s starting to trust that he’s healthy. He’s throwing more quality pitches,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s getting more confidence it’s going to hold up. That was a severe injury.”
This game marked Wang’s 10th appearance — one had lasted 6 1-3 innings — since returning to the big leagues on July 29, exactly two years after his right shoulder operation. Until then, he hadn’t been on a mound in the majors since July 4, 2009, when he was with New York.
Just as when he was dominating AL batters for the Yankees, Wang got groundball out after groundball out Sunday: Only four of the 20 outs he recorded were flyballs.
“Each time he’s toed that rubber, he’s gotten a little better. It’s turning into a pretty good success story for him,” Nationals outfielder Jonny Gomes said. “If he just came back and pitched, that would be pretty awesome. To come back and pitch at this level and have success, that’s icing on the cake.”
Wang hadn’t won a game since Aug. 16 against the Cincinnati Reds, going 0-1 in five starts since.
But the right-hander was much better Sunday. He allowed runs on Gaby Sanchez’s fifth-inning solo shot and Brett Hayes’ two-run homer in the seventh — both liners to left that barely cleared the wall.
“Kept the hitters off balance. Changed speeds well,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “I think it’s a good sign for the Nationals. Maybe this guy next year is part of their rotation and can come back and pitch like he did when he was with the Yankees.”
Wang made it sound as if he’d like to be in Washington in 2012.
He’s playing under a one-year contract that was worth $1 million plus incentives for 2011. He also got a one-year deal in 2010, but didn’t make it back to the big leagues last season.
After Hayes’ homer pulled Florida to 4-3, Wang departed to a partial standing ovation. Tyler Clippard got the next four outs, and closer Drew Storen pitched the ninth for his 38th save in 43 chances.
At this point of the season, the only thing truly at stake for either the Nationals or Marlins is avoiding a last-place finish in the NL East, so some individual players are keen to make an impression with next year in mind.
Wang did exactly that, as did first baseman Marrero.
Florida rookie Brad Hand (1-8), meanwhile, lost his fifth consecutive start, allowing four runs — three earned — and five hits in four innings.
Marrero’s sacrifice fly in the second made it 1-0, and Washington scored three in the fourth.
With two on, Espinosa lined a single to center, and the ball hopped over the glove of hard-charging center fielder Bryan Petersen and kept bouncing and rolling for several feet.
By the time Petersen corralled it, two runs had scored and Espinosa was on third. Espinosa entered the game with 60 RBIs as a rookie, but none since Sept. 4. Marrero followed with a ground-rule double that made it 4-0.
“I’ve worked my whole life to get to the big leagues,” Marrero said. “I’m here, and I just want to keep moving up and keep doing my thing.”
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