Vazquez dominant as Yanks win third in a row

There’s nothing quite like a four game series with a last-place team to help right the ship, and the Yankees next had the luxury of watching another last-place club roll into the Bronx for a three game set tonight. Javy Vazquez, really the only question mark on the team that doesn’t reside in the bullpen, gave it a go for the first time against the Orioles this season, and he gave the Yanks everything they were hoping for and then some.

"Maybe diving was a bad idea." (Photo Credit: Paul J. Bereswill, AP)

A-Rod With A Clutch … Uh …. Ground Into A Two-Run Error?

Remember when the Yankees used to wear down opposing starters and get to the other team’s bullpen by the 6th or sometimes even the 5th inning? Yeah, those days are long gone. Nine of the last ten opposing starters have completed at least six innings against the Yanks, not counting David Huff having to leave the game after taking a shot to the melon (he’s fine, we can joke about it now). Brian Matusz did the same tonight, and he even recorded the first two outs in the 7th before exiting with men on second and third.

"Oh crap ... not good." (Photo Credit: Paul J. Bereswill, AP)

He was relieved by former starter David Hernandez, who did exactly what he was supposed to do: he got a first pitch groundball from cleanup hitter Alex Rodriguez. Unfortunately for Hernandez, and Matusz as well, Miguel Tejada made a poor throw over to first and Ty Wigginton made an even poorer attempt at scooping the ball, leading to two runs crossing the plate and Alex being safe at first. It was just the way the Yankees planned to score the go-ahead runs, I’m sure.

In reality, the Yankees got away with squandering some opportunities earlier in the game. Derek Jeter‘s one out ground rule double in the 3rd went for naught, and a first and third with no outs situation in the 6th was wasted on a pair of infield popups and a strikeout. They’re getting away with blowing these opportunities because they have an easy schedule right now, but they have to start capitalizing soon. Bad teams find a way to lose, and that’s exactly what the Orioles did tonight.

You Jav To Hand It To Him

Photo Credit: Paul J. Bereswill, AP

The month of May was an odd one for the Yanks’ fourth starter turned fifth starter. Javy sandwiched a pair of brutal outings around two stellar ones, with a one batter faced/one strikeout relief appearance mixed in for good measure. No one’s really sure what to expect from him each time he takes the mound, and it’s a little bit more extreme than Good A.J./Bad A.J. We’re talking Great Javy or Awful Javy here.

Well, Great Javy made an appearance today, mowing down the Orioles until Corey Patterson (of all people) hit a solo homer to tie the game in the top of the 6th. Vazquez was cruising the entire way, throwing just 12 pitches in the 1st, 11 in the 2nd, 12 in the 3rd, nine in the 4th, 17 in the 5th, and 19th in the 6th, until he had to bear down and get himself out of trouble in the 7th. With the bases loaded (thanks to an intentional walk) and one out, Javy struck out Adam Jones for the second time, then got Julio Lugo to ground out harmlessly to short to end the threat. Earlier in the season, there would have been a total meltdown in this situation, but instead he bore down and got out of it. That’s a great sign, because it shows he’s building confidence and challenging guys and not pitching scared.

All told, Vazquez threw 103 pitches on the night, 63 of which were strikes. Remember, four of those pitches were intentional balls, so his ratio is a touch better than it appears. He completed seven innings for the just second time this season, allowing just four hits and the one run on the solo homer. He struck out seven and recorded nine ground outs to just three air outs. And yet, Javy almost didn’t get a win.

Until the two-run error in the 7th, the Yankees had scored a total of just four runs in Vazquez’s last four starts, so in the grand scheme of things it really didn’t matter how well or how poorly he pitched in those games. If your team doesn’t score runs for you, you’re not going to win. Period. Vazquez almost got hosed out of another potential win tonight, but he stuck it out and kept his team in it deep into the game.

Photo Credit: Paul J. Bereswill, AP

Hip Hip Hooray

Jeter’s double in the 3rd was the 450th of his career, moving him past Bernie Williams for second place on the Yankees’ all-time list. He’s still 84 two-baggers behind some guy named Lou Gehrig.

Ho hum. Another day, another two hits for Robbie Cano. His hit streak is up to 15 games, and his batting line is a stellar .366-.406-.615 on the season. The OBP and SLG are almost exactly what Prince Fielder put up last year, but of course Robbie’s not a first baseman.

Curtis Granderson picked up his fifth hit since coming off the DL, and four of those have come off lefties. The homer off Matusz tonight gives him three extra base hits off southpaws since returning, which is encouraging. It was also his first homer off a lefty since he took Joe Saunders deep last April the 22nd.

Nice and easy 1-2-3 8th inning for Joba Chamberlain on just eight pitches, and I was petrified the entire time. He got the job done, and that’s all that counts.

How about that groundout by Nick Markakis in the 9th? Mariano Rivera brought the cutter up and in, shattering the bat and allowing the ball to travel about 20 feet. That was vintage Mo right there, just devastating.

WTF? Booo!!!

Photo Credit: Paul J. Bereswill, AP

Mark Teixeira became the latest player to leave a game with an injury, as a foul ball off his foot ended his night in the 3rd. The good news is that x-rays came back negative and he’s just day-to-day with a bruise, but the bad news is that Jorge Posada‘s x-rays were negative when he suffered the hairline fracture on the bottom of his foot a few weeks ago. It took an MRI/bone scan to find the problem.

Marcus Thames and Frankie Cervelli popping up on the infield with men on the corners in that 6th, especially since they were both ahead in the count. Just terrible at-bats.

I remember complaining about walking the bases loaded at least once before in this space already this season, and sure enough they did it again in the 7th tonight. I know Javy got out of it, but damn, you’re asking for trouble when you do that. Getting away with it tonight just means they’ll try it more in the future.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has the traditional box score while FanGraphs have everything else.

Up Next

Same two teams tomorrow night, with Phil Hughes taking on his former high school teammate Brad Bergesen.

Vazquez returns to lineup in Trenton win

Brandon Laird’s monster week won him Eastern League Offensive Player of the Week honors. Luke Murton did the same in the Sally League.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Durham)
Greg Golson, CF & Jon Weber, DH: both 2 for 3, 1 BB – Golson drove in a run … Weber tripled & scored a run
Reegie Corona, 2B & Reid Gorecki, LF: both 1 for 3 – Corona drew a walk & K’ed … Gorecki walked, drove in a run, scored another & K’ed
Eduardo Nunez, SS & Matt Cusick, 3B: both 1 for 4 – Nunez K’ed
David Winfree, 1B: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 RBI
Colin Curtis, RF: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB – threw a runner out at the plate
Jesus Montero, C: 0 for 4, 2 K – just five for his last 34 (.147) … at least he threw out a runner trying steal … while allowing five stolen bases
Zach McAllister: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 9-6 GB/FB – 61 of 101 pitches were strikes (60.4%)
Boone Logan: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-2 GB/FB – 13 of his 19 pitches were strikes (68.4%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB - 11 of his 16 pitches were strikes (68.8%)

[Read more…]

Teixeira leaves game with bruised left foot, x-rays negative

Update (8:30pm): Bruised left foot for Tex, so it was the foul ball. The x-rays came back negative, thankfully. He’s day-to-day.

8:03pm: Mark Teixeira left tonight’s game after the 3rd inning for an unknown reason. He fouled a ball off his foot earlier in the game, and he was also hit by a pitch that glanced his back leg (knee?). Juan Miranda replaced him at first. We’ll update this post when we learn more.

Game 52: The Cap’n’s all right

That's right. Run far, far away Brian. (Photo Credit: Rob Carr, AP)

A minor scare was sent through Yankeeland yesterday when Derek Jeter exited the game with tightness in his left hamstring a few innings after being hit by a pitch in the same spot. The last thing the Yanks need is another injury, especially when the drop off from Jeter to his replacement is so massive. Thankfully, the Cap’n is back in their tonight, in his customary leadoff spot. As for the rest of the lineup, meh. I know a lefty is on the mound of Baltimore, but does Curtis Granderson really need to hit 8th? Eh, whatever.

The real story tonight is Javy Vazquez, who will be making his first start following the stinker in Minnesota that followed two dazzling starts. Javy has yet to face the Orioles this year even though they’ve already played them a bunch of times already, so at least he has the element of surprise on his side. He’ll be opposed by Brian Matusz, who’s already faced the Yanks twice this year, putting 18 men on base and allowing six runs to score in 12 innings. Hopefully the third time’s a charm for the Yankee offense.

Here’s the lineup…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Thames, DH
Cervelli, C
Granderson, CF
Russo, LF

And on the mound, Javier Carlos Vazquez.

The weather won’t be perfect, but there should be plenty of time to get this one in. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET, and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Yankees lose Shane Lindsay on waivers

Via MLBTR, the Indians have claimed reliever Shane Lindsay off waivers from the Yanks, who designated him for assignment last week to make room on the 40-man roster for Chad Gaudin. The Yanks claimed Lindsay off waivers from the Rockies just over two weeks ago, releasing the opt-injured Chris Garcia to fit him on the roster. He never appeared in a game during his time with the organization, instead hanging out in Extended Spring Training to trying to harness the upper-90’s heat that made him Colorado’s number 23 prospect before the season.

Posada close, but not yet activated

Via Sweeny Murti, injured catcher Jorge Posada is very close to be activated, but it won’t happen today. Joe Girardi wants to see him run again first, and there’s a chance he’ll be activated in time for tomorrow night’s game. I’m kinda surprised they’re going to bring him back so soon without at least letting him hit in a rehab game, let alone catch. It’ll be great to have Posada back in the lineup, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Series Preview: Orioles (15-36) at Yankees (31-20)

After taking three of four from the Indians over the weekend, the Yankees face another last place team, this time from their own division as the Orioles come into town for three games.

After a short dry spell the Yanks righted themselves last week, taking series from the first and last place teams in the AL Central. They beat the Twins with quality pitching, and only dropped the final because Javier Vazquez could not match the performances of A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. That pitching magic carried over into the Indians series — the only game they lost came when the pitching staff melted down. The bats also came alive against the Indians. It’s hard to believe that, with all the struggles we’ve seen from the Yanks, that they still lead the league in wOBA by a wide margin.

The Orioles have won the fewest games in the majors, no thanks to a current five-game losing streak. They haven’t won more than three straight this year, a feat they accomplished twice. They’ve gotten quality performances from Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie, the veterans atop their rotation, but haven’t seen much from their youngsters. In fact, David Hernandez realized the best results of the bunch, a 5.08 ERA, and he was the one demoted to the bullpen in favor of Chris Tillman. On offense, a number of disappointing performances, notably from Adam Jones and Miguel Tejada, have led the Orioles to a league-worst showing.

Just about everything, from the overall numbers to the pitching matchups, favors the Yankees this week. That doesn’t mean they’re destined to sweep, although they could certainly use three quick wins this week. The Orioles are vulnerable, and the Yankees look like a Mack truck. These things can turn on a dime, though, so we can’t really expect a sweep. Anything less than two out of three, of course, would represent a disappointment.

Pitching matchups

Tuesday: Brian Matusz (5.76 ERA, 3.81 FIP) vs. Javier Vazquez (6.86 ERA, 5.83 FIP)

This game looks like the Orioles’ best opportunity to steal a win. They’ll go against the weak link in the Yankees’ rotation, and while their own starter has had his problems lately, we can’t count the Orioles out of a slugfest. If the Indians can do it, surely the Orioles can, too.

Matusz started the year with a few solid starts, exiting April with a 4.40 ERA. That’s not bad for a 23-year-old player in his second pro season, especially coming in the AL East. He tripped up a bit in May, getting rocked by the Twins, Rangers, and A’s. He had two decent starts in there, including a seven-inning shutout against Cleveland. The other came against the Yankees, six innings and three runs, though two of the runs were unearned. He faced them in the start before that, too, allowing three earned in six innings.

Vazquez appeared to be recovering from his poor start to the season, but with a chance to sweep the Twins on Thursday, he took a step back. He struggled with command on secondary pitches, which hurt his cause right away. That he couldn’t get a strike call on his low and away slider hurt him further. The Orioles aren’t the Twins, though, so we get to see if Vazquez can respond and give the Yankees another solid start.

Wednesday: Brad Bergesen (5.96 ERA, 5.85 FIP) vs. Phil Hughes (2.70 ERA, 3.03 FIP)

Bergesen did a good job during his brief stint last year, but missed the season’s final two months after taking a comebacker off his leg. He also got off to a slow start this season after suffering a shoulder injury while shooting a commercial. He’s a groundball guy, and that skill hasn’t eluded him this year. A little over 50 percent of balls in play from him have been on the ground. His strikeout stuff, never impressive to begin with, is even worse this year, and he has actually walked more than he has struck out. He’s prone to the longball, which is not a good thing against the Yankees at the Stadium.

After the Red Sox and the Mets gave Phil Hughes a wakeup call, he responded in his last start against Cleveland. it seemed like the previous two teams were sitting on his cutter, fouling it off until he came at them with something in the zone. This time Hughes went to his curveball more often, and with much success. He also used the changeup. That will be more and more critical as the season wears on. It doesn’t have to be a frequently used secondary pitch, but Hughes will benefit from having it in his arsenal. It will, at the very least, prevent hitters from sitting on his cutter.

Thursday: Kevin Millwood (3.89 ERA, 4.47 FIP) vs. CC Sabathia (4.16 ERA, 4.48 FIP)

Kevin Millwood’s K/9 is at its highest level since 2004. His walk rate is at the lowest point of his career. That helps explain his 3.89 ERA. His 4.47 FIP? That’s because of the 1.46 HR/9 rate, right up there with 2001 as the highest in his career. Again, that doesn’t bode well for his matchup with the Yankees. He has handled himself well with diminished stuff, going to his secondary pitches more now that his fastball is 2 mph below the last two years.

The month of May was not kind to CC Sabathia. He had a 3.12 ERA and 3.38 FIP in April, but that jumped to 5.15 and 5.52 in May. Home runs and strikeouts have been the problem, and we can expect CC to put it back together sometime soon. He went through a similar stretch last year, though that was in April. This year it’s May. If it’s just one month, it’s nothing to worry about. If the Yanks take the first two, he’s still the guy I want on the mound to complete the sweep.