Missing the weapon that made him one of the American League's winningest pitchers in the past three seasons, Wang took a beating on Monday at Tropicana Field, rocked for eight runs and long gone by the end of the Rays' 15-5 drubbing of the Yankees.
"He's different when he's doing it in the bullpen and in the game," catcher Jorge Posada said. "You're overthinking and trying to do too much. Wang is better than that, we all know that. We're still counting on him and on his side. He's going through some tough times right now."
Wang never had a chance, not on an evening when the Rays hoisted the 2008 AL championship pennant in an elaborate pregame ceremony. Before long, the sellout crowd of 36,973 under the dome had plenty more reasons to cheer.
Tampa Bay sent eight men to the plate in the first inning and batted around in the next, chasing Wang, who faced four batters in the second frame and retired none. Carlos Pena led the charge with a two-run double and a grand slam to greet Wang's successor, Jonathan Albaladejo.
Pat Burrell had an RBI double, Gabe Gross drilled an RBI single and Evan Longoria worked a bases-loaded walk against Wang, who allowed six hits, three walks and struck out one in the abbreviated 61-pitch outing.
"I didn't do a good job throwing the ball down," Wang said. "I'm still leaving the ball high. Everything was high. ... My work in the bullpen was good, but in the game, it's the same thing."
"It seems like he really can't get down in the zone, and I don't know what it is," Posada said. "He's not able to get his pitches where he needs to be."
Wang's nightmarish numbers through two starts -- he has a 28.93 ERA, having allowed 15 hits and 15 runs in 4 2/3 innings -- have prompted questions about his health. But Wang said he feels fine, a comment he has also relayed to the Yankees' coaches and medical staff.
"I keep asking him, and I don't see him favoring anything," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's not getting any treatment, so I'm not concerned. He's just not getting it done right now."
If Wang is not hindered on the mound, there is a thought that his troubles may be attributed to rust, considering he did not pitch after suffering a right foot injury last June 15 in Houston.
Wang certainly has the track record of a winning big leaguer, owning a 24-7 record over his last 40 starts, dating back to June 1, 2007. Coming back from the injury, his spring was not dominant (4.15 ERA in six starts vs. big league teams), but he certainly did not raise red flags like this.
"You've got to keep things in perspective," Derek Jeter said. "He didn't look too good his first couple of outings, but he hasn't pitched in a long time. He's only going to get better as time goes on."
After Wang couldn't make it through five innings against the Orioles in the season's second game on Wednesday, he spent time reviewing video with pitching coach Dave Eiland, and they thought the flaw had been corrected.
"I wish I had the answer, because I'd try to fix it tonight," Girardi said. "You don't want to make too much of two starts, because it is only two starts, but we do have to get him right."
Wang said that he still thinks the problem will be straightened out, but the 29-year-old admitted his confidence has taken a hit.
"If I say no, it would be lying," Wang said.
Jason Bartlett hit a solo home run off Albaladejo in the third inning to put Tampa Bay up by double digits, and Burrell belted a solo home run off Edwar Ramirez in the sixth as the game drifted into a farce, ending with Nick Swisher pitching the eighth inning to save New York's bullpen.
Scott Kazmir picked up a breezy victory with 6 2/3 innings in the books, allowing three runs on six hits, walking none and striking out six. Swisher clubbed a fourth-inning solo home run to put the Yankees on the board, while Melky Cabrera, Cody Ransom and Posada also collected RBIs for New York.
"They just killed us from the get go," Jeter said. "It's just one of those days. I guess you say it's their day. They had an opportunity to celebrate what they did last season, and they had their way with us."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less