The Washington Times - August 21, 2011, 07:42PM

Chien-Ming Wang’s fifth start of the season was punctuated by a pair of home runs. His sinker didn’t sink right, leading to the Phillies’ Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley going deep.

Regardless of that, Nationals manager Davey Johnson was pleased with Wang in his 5 2/3 innings Sunday, ended only by a 1-hour, 11-minute rain delay. If not for that, Johnson said he would’ve let Wang stay in for 100 pitches.

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“He looked free and easy,” the manager said. “Everything was crisp. The breaking ball was crisp; he threw some quality [change-ups].”

Using his change-up as a swing-and-miss pitch, mixing in an effective curveball that got a few outs and keeping his slider down, Wang struck out four Phillies hitters. That was by far a season high; he had only three strikeouts combined in his previous four starts.

Wang didn’t get a decision in a dramatic 5-4 walk-off win for the Nats, but he almost went pitch-for-pitch against reigning NL Cy Young Roy Halladay. The 31-year-old Taiwanese righty allowed just five hits and walked one Sunday. He threw 54 of his 87 pitches for strikes.

Johnson said (while making a knock-on-wood motion) that Wang shouldn’t miss another start this season. Sunday was yet another chapter in what’s becoming a nice comeback story.

“Every start I’ve seen progress and improvement,” Johnson said. “I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.”