Javier Vazquez has made just one start in the Bronx since being reacquired by the Yankees, and it ended with a bunch of blockheads booing what was actually a fairly solid start that just happened to come opposite a fantastic performance by the Angels’ Joel Piñeiro. What they were booing wasn’t really Vazquez’s performance that day, but his disaster start in Tampa Bay the turn before and the back-breaking grand slam he allowed to Johnny Damon in Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS, Vazquez’s last appearance in Yankee pinstripes. Never mind the absurdity of blaming Vazquez for the Yankees’ collapse in 2004 (or even for the four runs allowed on the Damon slam given that Vazquez was exactly the worst pitcher for Joe Torre to have brought in after Kevin Brown had loaded the bases). We all know there’s a thriving contingent of mouth-breathing jackasses in every ballpark, particularly those in the northeast. What worries me is that this afternoon’s game looks primed to dump more blood into the water as Vazquez is going up against one of the game’s hottest pitchers in White Sox lefty Jon Danks.
Vazquez, as we all know all too well by this point, has been struggling with his mechanics in the early going this year, rushing his delivery and thus causing his arm to drag, his slider to flatten out, and robbing his fastball of both location and velocity. Though he did pick up a win against the punchless A’s in Oakland, he has yet to turn in a quality start, and in three of his four outings he has missed both the innings and runs qualifications for that statistic. I still have faith that Vazquez will get on track, but more abuse from the home fans will only make the allegations of Eddie Whitson syndrome a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As for Danks, he’s the real deal. All of his four starts this season have been quality, and he’s averaging nearly 7 1/3 innings and barely more than one earned run per game. He leads the American League in WHIP (0.86), and boasts a 1.55 ERA and 4.33 K/BB. Like CC Sabathia, Danks has been hit-lucky in the early going (.224 opponent’s average on balls in play), but also like CC, he has the stuff to survive a correction. I’m willing to believe the 25-year-old is making the leap this year.
Danks faced the Yankees just once last year, allowing four runs in six innings but picking up a win. The Yankee who has faced him most is former Tiger Curtis Granderson, who has gone 1-for-19 with no walks against the lefty. Granderson is hitting .172/.200/.242 against lefties this year, but Nick Johnson is the man taking a seat to make room for Marcus Thames in the lineup. I understand not wanting Thames in the outfield behind a flyballer like Vazquez, but if Randy Winn doesn’t start this game, he shouldn’t be on this team.
Nick Swisher hits second. Jorge Posada is back behind the plate.