Right-hander is pulled after just 31Ú3 innings
The options are limited and not particularly appealing for Chien-Ming Wang and the Nationals.
The organization has put over two years into a pitcher whose career appeared finished following major shoulder surgery in 2009. And while there have been signs of progress during that time, Wang is simply not performing. The latest shaky outing turned into a mini-disaster on Tuesday night when the Tampa Bay Rays hit an early home run and a triple to knock Wang out of the game after just 31Ú3 innings in an eventual 5-4 win over Washington at Nationals Park.
Wang gave up five runs, all earned, on seven hits. He walked three batters and by early in the fourth inning had thrown 77 pitches. And so manager Davey Johnson pulled his starter even after striking out leadoff batter Desmond Jennings. That came moments after Wang walked the pitcher, David Price. It was too late for redemption on this night.
"He's still having some delivery problems," Johnson said. "For him to throw that many pitches and to walk [three] guys, it's just not him. His arm strength is back, but he's still trying to do too much."
Wang has now made five starts since recovering from a strained right hamstring suffered in spring training. He made it through the previous three games with limited damage -- but barely. Wang has now allowed 26 hits with 14 walks in just 172Ú3 innings. Even worse, his best pitch, a hard sinker, wasn't working at all. That led to the two-run homer by Carlos Pena in the third inning and a two-run triple by Elliot Johnson later in that frame. B.J. Upton had already singled home a run in the first inning, and he later doubled in the third.
It's only five starts, but Wang has competition for the No. 5 spot in Washington's loaded rotation. Ross Detwiler, banished to the bullpen upon Wang's return May?25, was dominant in relief. He retired 11 of the 12 Rays batters he faced with three strikeouts. The only person to reach base was on a hit-by-pitch. Does he now retake that last spot?
"I am where I am now. I've got to get comfortable with that," Detwiler said. "That's the only way I'm going to throw well. Further down the road there's a good chance I'll be back -- whether it be next year or whenever."
At the very least, Detwiler garnered some positive attention by keeping his team in the game. Down 5-2, Ryan Zimmerman singled and Michael Morse lined a homer to right-center field. It was his first blast since making his season debut on June 2 after spending two months on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle.
The game was not without other drama. In the eighth inning, Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta -- a former Nats pitcher in 2010 -- was ejected after umpires found he had a "foreign substance" on his glove. Crew chief Tim Tschida took the glove away and Peralta soon followed -- but not before a sly smile and a tip of the cap toward the Washington dugout. He had a 2.02 ERA in 2010 with the Nats in 39 games and had pitched another 28 at Triple-A Syracuse, where Nats first base coach Trent Jewett was his manager. In the top of the ninth, Rays manager Joe Maddon reciprocated when he asked umpires to check Washington reliever Ryan Mattheus' glove. Nothing was found.
"I knew I was clean," Mattheus said with a smile. "When I seen [Maddon] coming I figured that's what was going to go on. I just had [the glove] out there for them to see."