Vazquez gets in the win column as Yanks take fifth straight

Game 13: Streakin'
Cano showing patience -- on certain pitches

The Yankees arrived on the West Coast on a high note, having won their last four games and seven of their last eight overall. The team enjoyed a nice moment before the game, presenting  Chad Gaudin and Edwar Ramirez with their 2009 World Series rings, but there was no mercy to be found once everybody took the field.

Photo Credit: Ben Margot, AP

Biggest Hit: Nick Swisher‘s two run single

Before the game even got underway, I said Gio Gonzalez was exactly the kind of pitcher that the Yankees should destroy. He throws way too many pitches out of the zone, and this lineup isn’t going to help him out at all. Sure enough, they made him pay before starter Javy Vazquez even came out of the dugout.

Derek Jeter and Nick Johnson started the first inning off by making two very quick outs (just five pitches between the two of them), but Mark Teixeira doubled them up by taking four straight fastballs for a 3-1 count before ripping the fifth into the corner for a double. Alex Rodriguez and Robbie Cano followed with walks, and Jorge Posada reached base with a little help from Daric Barton’s stone hands at first. The Yanks were up a run, but they had a golden opportunity to cash in more.

At the plate was Nick Swisher, who coming into the game had made outs in his last nine plate appearances and hadn’t picked up a hit since tripling off Joel Pineiro last Wednesday. He had become anxious at the plate, hacking at the first more than a few times in the previous series against the Rangers. Gonzalez poured a first pitch fastball in for a questionable called strike, then two more for balls and a 2-1 count. Gonzalez had thrown Swisher three fastballs clocked at 93, 93, and 94, and he went right back to the well for another 94 mph heater, which Swisher promptly deposited into centerfield for a two run single. The Yankees had an early three run lead, and never looked back.

Photo Credit: Ben Margot, AP

Biggest Out: Travis Buck’s 1-3 double play

After the Yankees staked Javy to a three run lead, he did his best to try and hand at least part of it back in the second. With runners on first and third and one out, Travis Buck worked himself into a full count before squaring up a hanging curveball out over the plate. The ball was ticketed for centerfield, but Vazquez stuck his glove out and picked it off as it went by. Mark Ellis was running on the play, so Javy lobbed it over to Teixeira to double him off first for an easy third out.

Combined with A-Rod‘s heads up play to get the lead runner at the plate for the first out, it was one of the best escape jobs we’ll see all season. When you’ve got men on second and third with no outs, you hope to get out of the inning with just one run scoring. But to get out with the shutout intact? That’s big.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Kouzmanoff’s strikeout

The Yankees seemed to be in control of this one of this one all game long, but it almost got away from them for a bit in the 7th. Boone Logan, making his Yankee debut, recording two quick outs before a poor throw by Jeter extended the inning. Barton followed up with a single to right, and Logan couldn’t put the lefty swinging Ryan Sweeney away, loaded the bases on a free pass, all with two outs.

Out came Joe Girardi from the dugout, and in came Joba Chamberlain from the bullpen to face Kouzmanoff, the A’s cleanup hitter. Joba started him off with a slider off the plate for ball one, but he picked up two strikes when Kouz fouled off a fastball and another slider. The fourth pitch was yet another slider, the third of the at-bat, though the A’s third basemen couldn’t hold up in time and went down on a check swing strikeout. Obviously a grand slam is the worst case scenario, but even if Joba had allowed a ball to get into the gap, all of a sudden we’re looking at a one run game with seven outs to go.

Vazquez grinds it out

Photo Credit: Ben Margot, AP

With the memory of his two first starts fresh in everyone’s minds, Javy Vazquez went out tonight trying to pick up not just a win for the team, but also a win for his confidence. Staked to a three run lead before he even threw a pitch, Javy fired off four shutout innings before serving up garbage time homers to Travis Buck and Kurt Suzuki, but more on that later.

It was clear from the start that Vazquez didn’t have his best stuff, and he struggled to put hitters away all night. Sixteen of the 23 batters he faced saw at least four pitches in their plate appearances, and ten saw at least five. The A’s are a patient team, but it’s not a lineup that should require just under a hundred pitches for five innings of work.

Vazquez threw 107 pitches on the night, mixing it up with 51 fastballs, 24 curveballs, 19 changeups, and 13 sliders. His fastball didn’t start to crack 90 mph with regularity until the third inning, and he put at least one batter on base in every inning he pitched. Vazquez helped himself out with some fine defense, starting a pair of double plays while adding a nice play on a comebacker that hit him in the leg to record an out.

That two run homer to Suzuki to cap off Javy’s night makes his pitching line (5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 K) look worse than it should be, but overall he battled throughout the game and made some big pitches when he had too. It’s nothing to write home about, but I’m sure he feels good and now has something to build off of.

Happy Moments

That first inning was a treat. After Jeter and Johnson made those first two outs on five pitches, the guys behind them proceeded to load the bases, push three runs across, and force Gonzalez to throw another 31 pitches in the frame before recording the last out. Also, Javy getting out of that second and third with no outs jam in the 2nd. It wasn’t textbook, but it worked. Disaster was imminent, but the A’s got nothing out of it. Alex just never seems to make a bad decision on the field, the guy is a baseball robot.

Photo Credit: Ben Margot, AP

Speaking of A-Rod, holy schnikees was that a bomb off Craig Breslow in the 5th. It was one of those homers that he didn’t even bother to watch in flight, he knew it was gone as soon as it left the bat. A-Rod’s now one homer behind Frank Robinson for seventh place on the all time list.

Patience. The Yankees’ lineup is just devastating if the opposing starter does anything less than pound the zone; only once in the last five games has a starter completed at least five against against the Yanks. They scored seven runs on just five hits tonight, coaxing ten walks out of A’s pitching. Even Cano got in on the act, drawing three walks to bring his season total to five. Overall, the Yankees have scored at least three runs in every game this season, and at least five runs in ten of the 13 games. That’s getting it done with the stick.

Joba looked fantastic tonight. PitchFX had him topping out at 96 with the fastball, and overall he just looked very sharp. Best he’s looked all season, and probably the best he’s looked since 2008.

Oh, and hey look, it’s Edwar! Glad to see he hasn’t changed one bit.

Annoying Moments

That two run homer by Kurt Suzuki in the 6th. Not so much the homer, but the non-play on the lazy fly ball to shallow center before that. Someone has to make that play, and it’s on Curtis Granderson and Robbie Cano for failing to communicate. The homer to Buck in the 5th didn’t bother me. Vazquez had a six run lead and full count on the leadoff batter, just throw a fastball over the plate and hope this is part of the 65% of the time or so that Buck makes an out.

I know injuries are a serious thing, but damn. Home plate ump Ed Rapuano takes a foul ball off the face mask, staggers around for a bit, stays in the game, then has to leave a few batters later. Logan got up in the bullpen, warmed up, came into the game, threw his warmup pitches, then makes one pitch to Mark Ellis before he has to wait out a 13-minute delay after Rapuano leaves. I mean, come on. Could’ve timed it a little better.

WPA Graph

You can find individual player breakdowns at FanGraphs’ box score.

Up Next

Another late West Coast game tomorrow, as these two teams are back at it for game two of the series. Phil Hughes vs. Ben Sheets. Should be a good one.

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Game 13: Streakin'
Cano showing patience -- on certain pitches
  • dkidd

    yankees win

    finally time to celebrate 4/20

    • Kevin G.

      finally time to celebrate 4/20

      /Joseph Pawlikowski’d

    • http://yanksgoyard.com Andy_C_23

      Why? Because it’s Don Mattingly’s birthday? I’m not sure what you mean…

    • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

      but when you wrote this it was 4/21

    • Rose

      People who celebrate 4/20 because they think it has something to do with pot are ridiculous. Just smoke your pot and shut the hell up.

  • Justin Beaver

    Im excited as always to see Hughes pitch. Im hoping he does even better this time around.

  • bexarama

    ooh, this was a quick game story.

    Good write-up as usual. Javy’s stuff has me slightly concerned, but it’s early. He fielded his position very well. And yeah, the homer to Suzuki didn’t bother me as much as the crappy play on the bloop right beforehand.

    It’s really ridiculous the way this team absolutely kills pitching.

    • Tom Zig

      Yeah I know Javy hasn’t been awe-inspiring, but at least he is showing improvement each time out.

    • http://None Jake

      If we wanted a righty starter who threw 88 mph, we could kept Chad Gaudin.

      • Jammy Jammers

        AND the dude has a ring. He’s a champion!

        • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

          Heh.

          • Ansky

            Chad Gaudin, True Yankee.

      • Rose

        Yet another NL pitcher coming off a career year…coming to the Yankees and finding himself treading water…

        I was really excited about this acquisition too…I thought Javy was going to be the dark horse amongst all the others. It’s still early but he hasn’t really been all that great. The only reason he improved could be the fact that the Athletics have a team OBP of .323. The fact that the A’s team SLG % is .369 and he gave up 2 bombs is pretty bad but whatever. It’s still April.

        • V

          It’s obvious that his mechanics are out of whack. His fastballs aren’t going to be sailing up and away all season.

      • mike c

        he looks exactly like gaudin did last year, minus the two embarassing losses

  • BigBlueAL

    One thing you shouldve mentioned in the annoying section was brining in Mo when Girardi did. Seriously couldnt leave Marte in when 3 of the next 4 batters were LH??

    Anyway that HR Arod hit was absolutely CRUSHED.

    • Hummingbird S.

      Exactly. Why does Logan get to face 7 batters but Marte only gets 1?

      • Rose

        Easy. Marte is Dominican. Boone Logan is from Texas…

        • Ansky

          Wouldnt that make more sense if this were the Red Sox?

  • mbonzo

    Does the beginning of that WPA graph represent the Yanks at 2-0 instead of 3-0, or did they fix it?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      They fixed it, that one is correct.

  • Salty Buggah

    Cano led the Yanks in pitches seen with 31 (Tex and Johnson were next with 25). With this lineup, that’s pretty rare for Cano but I’ll like it.

    Anyway, after that 1st inning, Gonzalez was seemingly cruising but he still only pitched 4.1 innings, which is pretty awesome. This lineup is ridiculous.

    • Accent Shallow

      He has some good stuff, if he can ever learn to throw strikes, he’ll be dangerous.

  • Rey22

    I’d completely forgotten about the belt. I’m amused it’s back.

  • pat

    The only way I can practice Zen Baseball is to go to sleep before the game even starts. It was nice to wake up to a win.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

      ha i did that too.

      • http://richardiurilli.wordpress.com/ Richard Iurilli

        True confessions: I fell asleep on the couch after Edwar’s fourth walk and woke up in time to see Mo come in.

    • Jammy Jammers

      Sometimes I listen to the radio while falling asleep. This can backfire b/c a dream/nightmare will be triggered by the audio.

      Like…
      The Stadium is being attacked by a Godzilla monster.
      A psycho boston-accented woman is chasing me.
      Or everything being kind of Grandish.

    • http://kierstenschmidt.com Kiersten

      I envy people who go to sleep before 1am on a daily basis. I can’t remember the last time I went to bed that early. I like these late games.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

        I pretty much can’t stay up much past 10:30/11 anymore haha. This past fall I’d be up till 5 or 6 on weekends but I took this semester off (i.e. no social life anymore) and my new job is basically loading bags of compost/fertilizer/soil/lawnmowers/etc. into people’s cars all day so by ten o’clock i’m verr tired.

  • http://richardiurilli.wordpress.com/ Richard Iurilli

    How much of an impact do you think the Rapuano inury had on Javy?

    Granted, the long delay was after he left the game, but Rapuano was staggering around after he was hit right before the bloop hit that dropped between Curtis and Robbie.

    Maybe he was a little unnerved by the slight delay and the defensive blunder?

  • http://None Jake

    Most encouraging part of this game was Joba.
    Good for him. We are going to need him in these spots.

  • Russell210

    Was anybody else peeved that the Yankee announcers kept saying the home plate umpire was leaving because he got hit by the ball, when you can clearly see the batter swung around and hit his helmet?

  • pat

    As impressive as Arod’s HR was, Granderson’s dinger off Beckett was longer. 455 vs 452.

  • CountryClub

    Did Jeter really make a poor throw? I thought it was more that he lost the ball in his glove and had to double clutch.

    Anyway, back in 1st.

  • Rose

    Out of the 9 players in the line up…Nick Johnson is tied for 2nd to last in runs with Curtis Granderson (7). Only Nick Swisher has less runs scored (5). Nick’s OBP of .407 means he’s certainly doing his job…I guess it’s a coincidence that they’re just scoring most of their runs the rest of the time when he’s not on base…

    You’d think he’d be leading the league batting 2nd with a .407 OBP for the team who leads the AL in runs scored…

    • V

      I think the reason Nick hasn’t scored many runs is because of who’s batting 3rd. So far (until this past weekend), #3 in the lineup was an automatic out.

    • CountryClub

      Tex and Arod have gotten off to slow starts. But both seem to be coming out of it. NJ’s runs scored will go up from here.

      • Ghost of Scott Brosius

        I didn’t think Arod was off to a slow start- in terms if home runs left, but he was hitting a ton of doubles and walking regularly. Looks like he was establishing the line drive stroke, and now he’s going to unleash the power.

  • Mike HC

    Javy seems to have the stuff to survive at the 88-90 mph fastball, but even according to him, he is most effective at 93. I hope he reaches that at some point this year.

    I do like the fact he simply knows how to pitch. Even with mediocre stuff, he can get guys out. He can really only get better from here. I think he will.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

      wait…does that mean he’s gritty?

  • Andy Summers

    Two outs away from a QS, 6Ks, good G/F ratio…too many HRs. Progress moves at a screeching halt I guess.

  • Mike Nitabach

    I fell asleep during the top of the second inning, so thanks for the detailed re-cap! It sounds like the most dramatic thing I slept through was Joba getting the third out in the 7th with bases loaded.