SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez has gotten a lot of attention as one of the American League's premier young pitchers, but Chien-Ming Wang showed his counterpart on Wednesday why he may be the class of the league when it comes to sophomore hurlers.
Wang held the Mariners to two runs over seven innings, while the Yankees battered Hernandez for seven runs in just 3 2/3 innings, taking a 9-2 win over Seattle.

Wang earned his team-leading 15th victory of the season, tying Detroit's Justin Verlander and Minnesota's Johan Santana for second in the AL, one behind Toronto's Roy Halladay. Wang won for the seventh time in his last eight decisions.

"I don't think we could have expected this," manager Joe Torre said. "You like those happy surprises; the pleasant surprises."

Robinson Cano drove in three runs for the Yankees, while Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada each drove in a pair.

The victory, New York's sixth win in seven games on its current road trip, kept the Yankees 6 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox in the American League East.

Hernandez (10-12) retired Damon and Derek Jeter to open the game, but the Yankees mounted a two-out rally, touching the young right-hander for a pair of runs. Bobby Abreu singled, then Giambi and Posada walked to load the bases. Cano delivered a two-run single to give the Yanks the lead.

"Maybe the most important inning was the first; two out, nobody on and we had some great at-bats," Torre said. "Posada has a great at-bat, because he fell behind 1-2 and then worked the walk."

Most importantly, the Yankees forced Hernandez to throw 31 pitches in the inning, a sign that it could be a short night for the 20-year-old.

"He's going to be something special; he's got a plus fastball, a plus changeup and plus breaking stuff," said Damon, who had never faced Hernandez. "When we can tire him out and get him out of the game early like we did, it's a plus."

"The first two hitters were pretty easy for him, but we made him work hard," Torre said. "We like to try to do that; take quality at-bats, make pitchers work, and if he makes a mistake, try to take advantage of it."

Wang, who had just one win in his last three starts, allowing 12 runs over 16 1/3 innings, looked sharp from the beginning, as he pounded the zone with one sinker after another. Chris Snelling singled with one out in the second, but Wang (15-5) sat the next 10 Seattle hitters down, moving through the lineup with ease.

"He was back to his old self today; he threw a lot of fastballs, got ground balls and got a lot of bad swings," Torre said. "It looked pretty easy for him, even though we know it isn't."

"Today, my sinker was good," Wang said. "[The last three starts], my sinker was flat."

Hernandez appeared to settle in after the first, pitching two quick innings in the second and third. But New York torched him in the fourth, driving him from the game after scoring five runs in the frame. Damon and Giambi each knocked in two in the inning, as the Yankees took a commanding 7-0 lead.

"I felt like I was concentrating; everyone wanted me to concentrate on this game," Hernandez said. "This was one of the few days where I wasn't overthrowing. I was throwing balls down in the strike zone and they were going down and getting them."

Wang allowed a two-out double by Richie Sexson in the fourth, but he got Raul Ibanez to fly out for the third out. Jose Lopez opened the fifth with a single, but Wang induced a double play off the bat of Ben Broussard en route to another scoreless inning.

"I didn't get a pop fly in the outfield all day," Damon said. "It's almost like a day off when he pitches."

Seattle finally got to Wang in the seventh, scoring a pair of runs, but it was too little, too late. Wang finished the night charged with two runs on seven hits, striking out five without issuing a walk.

Of his 21 outs, Wang got 11 groundouts, struck out five batters, got four flyouts and one popup.

"He's fun to play behind," Jeter said. "He's been as good as anyone. When he gets a lot of ground ball outs, that's when he's at his best."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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